Surfboard shaper carrying polystyrene out to be recycled

The 1% Initiative

The 1% Initiative is my manufacturing philosophy that I dreamed up in early 2017. It represents a drive to put waste management and waste minimisation as the primary focus during the Makara surfboard manufacturing process. The goal is to reduce and limit the waste produced from manufacturing a single surfboard to 1% of the surfboard’s net weight. And, it’s not as easy as you might imagine.

Think about it. An example 4.9 lb (2.2 Kg) surfboard means you are only allowed to throw away 0.8 oz (22.0 g) of waste. That’s a ridiculously strict standard for production. However, through responsible choice and usage of material inputs, strict raw material inventory tracking, and a desire to constantly search for more ecologically responsible ways to perform the various tasks involved with manufacturing a surfboard, I believe it is indeed possible.

Waste Audit

The first step to achieving 1% is to perform a waste audit. Make a list of everything that gets used no matter how immaterial it might seem because this list also represents everything that will be contributing to your waste. Often people forget about all the little things that help us produce our product like masking tape, latex gloves, etc. These produce waste too and if you weren’t making surfboards, you wouldn’t be buying them and throwing them in the bin when you are finished with them. Thus, they should be included in the calculation as well.

  • Wood
  • Expanded polystyrene
  • Polyurethane glue
  • Fibreglass cloth
  • Epoxy resin
  • Epoxy resin filler
  • Epoxy resin tints and pigments
  • Logo paper
  • Paint brushes for fill coating and painting
  • Plastic sheeting for resin run-off catchment
  • Paints
  • Polish
  • Stirring sticks for resin and paint
  • Sandpaper
  • Fin boxes and a leash plug
  • Masking tape
  • Rubber gloves for the fibreglassing process
  • Latex gloves to protect your hands during steps like stringer gluing, installing fin boxes, etc.
  • Paper towel for clean-up
  • Paper cups for small amount resin and paint mixing

Know Your Source

In the ideal world, all our inputs would come from sustainable and at best environmentally friendly sources. This is of prime importance to the model because any related waste needs to have the least impact to the environment as possible. And at the time of writing this, I realise I am not doing enough. But, here is what I have been able to achieve so far:

  • Wood: Although FSC certified wood for stringers is hard to procure in Hong Kong, I am able to verify my wood is not a CITES or IUCN protected species
  • Epoxy resin: I glass with Entropy Bio Resin
  • Logo paper: Made from onion skin
  • Paint brushes: Wood handle and natural fibre only
  • Paints: I use water based tempura
  • Stirring Sticks: Bamboo

Keep Track

You already should be doing this anyway as it is important to keep your costs in control. But if you are not, set-up a good raw material inventory tracking system. When materials come in, I receive them against a purchase order so I know exactly how much quantity I have on hand. Then when I make a surfboard, I write down what is used as I use it in material usage forms.

Get Good at It

The more efficient you become at using materials, the less waste you are going to create. This is also great for your wallet since it means less material cost per surfboard. That means lower Cost of Goods Sold and higher Gross Margin. We all need a little bit of that.

Recycle

Get recycling. The more you send off to recycling, the lest you end up wasting. All scrap expanded polystyrene and EPS dust gets recycled. I take it to 迷失的寶藏: 發泡膠回收行動 Missing Link- Polyfoam Recycling Scheme

Waste Capture

Surfboard waste collection bins
Each surfboard gets its own waste collection bin during production.

In order to know how much waste you are creating, you need to capture it. When I start making a surfboard, I label a 28 L bin with the surfboard reference. Then anything that does not get recycled or reused, goes into the bin. I know the bin has a net weight of 2.98 lbs (1.35 Kg). So when I am done making a surfboard, all I have to do is weigh the bin and subtract the net weight to get my “Weight of Waste”.