Fibreglass cloth is made by weaving fibreglass strands together to make a super-strong cloth suitable for use in the manufacture of small boats and surfboards. Fibreglass cloth is used to reinforce the frame of small boats and surfboards, giving it a lightweight strength. Because it is woven, fibreglass cloth is very flexible, making application easy. However, fibreglass is frowned upon by the environmental community because it requires harmful chemical treatment for commercial use. Alternatives -- or products made with these alternatives -- are on the whole slightly more expensive than fibreglass, but cheap in terms of their impact on the environment..
Companies, such as Greenlight Surfboard Supply, manufacture a natural bamboo glassing cloth that shares several of the characteristics of fibreglass cloth -- except, of course, for its deleterious effects on the environment. Bamboo glassing cloth is made from one of the most durable and versatile renewable resources on the planet. It's flexible and strong, making it ideal for laminating surfboards and other watercraft. Bamboo glassing cloth is about £3 per foot.
The hemp plant has gained something of a negative reputation for its association with cannabis, but it is actually a resilient plant that doesn't exhaust soil and has a variety of uses. The hemp plant helps remove carbon dioxide from the environment as it grows, which is more than can be said for fibreglass, which relies on toxic petrochemicals for treatment and processing. Hemp cloth is an environmentally-friendly alternative to fibreglass that is also cheap to make and use. 184gr. hemp fabric from a retail outlet costs about $30 a yard, with heavier fabrics costing more, and wholesale bulk orders costing less.
Like hemp, cloth can be woven from dried natural grass, making it a suitable alternative to fibreglass cloth that is also available in abundance. Natural grass can be sourced locally from saltwater habitats to ensure the resulting fibre is hardy and resistant to wear and tear. Look for manufacturers that use natural grass fibres in their ecofriendly surfboard and surfboard-related products instead of standard fibreglass. Natural grass cloths have a cost similar to bamboo cloths at around $6 per foot.
Basalt fibre makes a mineral-based cloth composed of olivine, plagioclase and pyroxene. Basalt fibre is even more durable than fibreglass and also similar to carbon fibre, though it is much cheaper to manufacture than the latter. Unlike fibreglass, no chemicals or materials need to be added to basalt to make basalt fibre, which is sourced from carefully selected quarries, then washed and melted down. Basalt fabric costs as little as $2.50 per kilogram.
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