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Adidas unveils 100 percent recyclable running shoe

By Danielle Wightman-Stone

24 Apr 2019


Global sportswear brand Adidas has strengthened its commitment to tackling plastic waste with the unveiling of Futurecraft.Loop, its first 100 percent recyclable performance running shoe.

“Taking plastic waste out of the system is the first step, but we can’t stop there,” said Eric Liedtke, executive board member at Adidas, responsible for global brands in a statement. “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 waste.”

Liedtke added: “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.”

Adidas is calling its Futurecraft.Loop a “breakthrough” to unlocking a circular future for sports by allowing its recyclable performance running shoe to be returned to Adidas, broken down and reused to create new performance running shoes.

While sports footwear typically includes complex material mixes and component gluing, which means that a shoe can only be downcycled, Adidas has stated that after a decade of research and development alongside leading material development, manufacturing and recycling partners across Asia, Europe and North America, it has found a way to change the process.

Once the shoes come to the end of their first life and are returned to Adidas, they are then washed, ground to pellets and melted into material for components for a new pair of shoes, meaning zero waste and nothing thrown away.

“Futurecraft.Loop is our first running shoe that is made to be remade. It is a statement of our intent to take responsibility for the entire life of our product; proof that we can build high- performance running shoes that you don’t have to throw away,” explained Liedtke. “The Futurecraft.Loop project is aimed at tackling the problem of plastic waste, enabling a “closed loop” or circular manufacturing model, where the raw materials can be repurposed again and again. But not just repurposed into a water bottle or a tote, but into another pair of high- performance running shoes.”

Adidas introduces Futurecraft.Loop performance shoes that have been designed to be remade

Tanyaradzwa Sahanga, manager of technology innovation at Adidas, added: “We set out to create a new type of product that we can take back, grind up and reapply into new Adidas products. We knew this was a far-reaching vision in every way; technically and even behaviourally!

"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 first-gen release of the Futurecraft.Loop shoe is rolling out as part of Adidas’ widest ever global beta programme, with 200 leading creators from across the world’s major cities, who will be challenged to run in them, return the shoes and share feedback on their experience, ahead of the second-gen drop. Adidas is hoping that a wider commercial release could be as early as spring/summer 2021.

Paul Gaudio, senior vice president of creative direction and future at Adidas, said: “Futurecraft is our design and innovation ethos. It is about the intersection of art, science, technology, humanity, engineering and craft. It’s applying creativity to reimagine the world we wish to see.

“Futurecraft seeks to break new ground, bringing new materials and processes to bear against the many challenges and opportunities we face in helping athletes make a difference in their game, in their life and of course, in the world they live in - the world we all live in.”

This project is part of Adidas’ sustainability strategy, and follows the success of its partnership with Parley for the Oceans, which saw the sportswear brand in 2015 introducing a performance footwear concept with an upper made entirely of yarns and filaments reclaimed and recycled from marine plastic waste and illegal deep-sea gillnets. In 2019, Adidas has stated that it will produce 11 million pairs of shoes containing recycled ocean plastic through intercepting plastic waste on beaches, remote islands and in coastal communities.

In addition, Adidas has also committed to using only recycled polyester in every product and on every application where a solution exists by 2024.

Images: courtesy of Adidas