Adidas rolls out first recyclable shoe

Brand takes first steps into circular business model with Futurecraft Loop running shoe.

Adidas, Germany, is testing out its 100 percent recyclable running shoe on 200 “leading creators” from across the world ahead of the brand’s plans to commercialize them in 2021. The first generation all-white Futurecraft Loop performance running shoes, which are “made to be remade,” will be returned to Adidas, broken down and reused to create new running shoes.

“We set out to create a new type of product that we can take back, grind up and reapply into new Adidas product,” says Tanyaradzwa Sahanga, manager, technology innovation, Adidas.

The beta release follows more than a decade of research, material development and collaboration with manufacturing and recycling partners across Asia, Europe and North America. The first Loop shoe is made with one material type and no glue. The shoe is made with reusable thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), which is spun into yarn, knitted and fused using Adidas’ Speedfactory technology.

At their end-of-life, the shoes are washed, ground to pellets and melted into material that can go back into making the next generation Loop shoe.

“We knew this was a far-reaching vision in every way, technically and even behaviorally,” Sahanga says. “There were times when it didn’t seem like we could get over some of the technical hurdles. Now we’ve made the first leap, the playing field has changed. We cannot create a circular future on our own. We are going to need each other. We’re excited to see this first step come to life as part of the beta launch.”

The creators will run in the Loop shoes, return the shoes and share feedback on their experience, which will provide the foundation for the next generation of Loop shoes. A wider commercial release of the Loop shoe is targeted for spring or summer 2021.

Adidas began partnering with Parley for the Oceans, New York, New York, to make shoes made out of recycled ocean plastic in 2015. The brand went from creating a footwear concept with an upper lid made with yarns reclaimed from ocean plastic to producing 11 million shoes made with Ocean Plastic by Parley in 2019.

The key breakthrough into a circular business model was simplifying the design from using 12 different materials to one and using heat rather than glue to fuse the shoe together. As part of its sustainability strategy, Adidas is committed to using only recycled polyester in every product and on every application by 2024.

“Taking plastic waste out of the system is the first step, but we can’t stop there,” says Eric Liedtke, executive board member, global brands, Adidas. “What happens to your shoes after you’ve worn them out? You throw them away, except there is no away. There are only landfills and incinerators and ultimately an atmosphere choked with excess carbon or oceans filled with plastic. The next step is to end the concept of ‘waste’ entirely. Our dream is that you can keep wearing the same shoes over and over again.”

Originally published on Recycling Today