Let's talk about sneakers!
In July 2018 we had already looked into the collaboration between Adidas and Parley to design sneakers from plastic collected in the oceans.
In April and November 2019, Adidas revealed its futurecraft.loop and futurecraft.loop 2 sneaker design made of recycled plastic. Details about the production and design can be found here, but to summarize, Adidas wants to make the concept of circular economy part of the consumers' mindset and change our perspective over items' end-of-life and waste:
shoes should be returned to the factory instead of discarded, to be afterwards reduced to production raw material and form new sneakers again.
The brand admits that part of the problem will come from consumers themselves rather than from R&D efforts, and from the way the collection process should occur. After all, if the shoes are returned in Europe to be further transported and re-transformed in Asia, the concept loses its sustainale potential. So far, only 1,200 pairs have been produced (a drop against the 400 million pairs sold each year); however Adidas plans to increase its production to industrial standards by 2021.
Reebok on the other hand launched the ‘Forever Floatride Grow’ shoes, a new running design made entirely of plant-based products (castor beans, algae, eucalyptus trees and sustainably-srouced, natural rubber). The sports brand had been working on the design for the past 3 years as a response to a change in the market and a way to get closer to its commitment to remove virgin polyester from its line by 2025.
Bill McInnis, Vice President of Reebok Future, admitted that "the biggest challenge in making a shoe like this was developing plant-based materials that could meet the high-performance needs of runners".
On a complete different scale, the Khaleej Times, a newspaper based in the UAE, gave the spotlights to Ashay Bhave, a young, Indian-of-origin entrepreneur who has designed a sneaker allegedly made of plastic only. Under the brand Thaely and following a 2 years-long work to design prototype, the sneakers have been made of 15 plastic bags and 22 plastic bottles "sourced from scrap processing corporations and supermarkets".
I discovered the article on LinkedIn, and because I knew of the challenges large, corporate brands have encountered launching their own projects, I immediately questionned the praising comments that were suddenly popping on my feed.
While the intentions behind the project are absolutely great (for instance, "The fabric used for the shoes does not use any additional chemicals, ultimately minimising waste", the article says), no information are available at all with regard to the production process and its own environmental impact. And like the good party-pooper I can be sometimes, I commented that recycling plastic and turning it into materials to be used for the fashion industry can be highly energy-intensive, and not all plastics can be used for this purpose either. Reducing waste is a great thing, but from a systemic, LCA perspective, details of the production would be helpful before playing the sustainability trumpets.
The association SurfRider that participated in podcast session of Studio 404 a year ago for instance explained that a lot of reclaimed plastic from the oceans cannot be re-used and transformed as they have lost their best quality components while in the water. And knowing that most of the plastic contained in the oceans is now unreachable microplastic, we cannot count on fast fashion to solve the plastic pollution problem in the world.
I am sincerely also doubtful that the materials contained in supermarket plastic bags have the necessary quality or chemical characteristics to be transformed.
Anyway, should more details be shared I will be happy to look into it further for OUTSIDE THE BOX.
Pic/ Khaleej Times