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329: Sneakers


Sneakers are manufactured with harmful chemicals that are released into the environment. They are also disposed of in harmful ways, such as incineration or dumping them in landfills, which exposes our environment to these toxic chemicals.


In 2015, Cyrill Gutsch of New York, founder of Parley for the Oceans teamed up with Adidas, with its 9.7% athletic footwear global market share, to produce sustainable running shoes called UltraBoost X, made entirely of yarns and filaments reclaimed and recycled from marine plastic waste and illegal deep-sea gill-nets.

A chip in the heel of the shoe enables the runner to use their phone to scan their shoe and follow its story from plastic waste to stylish sneaker. As part of their commitment to tackle plastic waste, Adidas’s trainers use only one material and no glue, making them easier to recycle.

In addition, in between 2017, Adidas and Parley for the Oceans organised “Run For The Oceans”, a global running movement that uses the power of sport to raise awareness for the threat of marine plastic pollution.

They hosted a series of physical runs in several key cities worldwide including LA, New York, Paris, Berlin, London, Barcelona, Milan and Shanghai, and mobilized the global Adidas Runners network to organize weekly running initiatives in 50 Adidas Runners communities worldwide.

For the 2018 event Adidas matched every kilometre run with US$1 dollar, for the first one million kilometers – to support the Parley Ocean Plastic Program, focusing specifically on the Parley Ocean School initiative, which educates and empowers the next generation of Ocean Guardians through immersive experiences in the environment we are fighting to protect.

With in-school and water sports activities, the program introduces youth to the underwater world, teaching them about the impacts of marine plastic pollution and giving them the tools and inspiration to protect their future with Parley AIR.

In 2019, Adidas produced 11 million pairs of shoes with Ocean Plastic® by Parley by intercepting plastic waste on beaches, remote islands and in coastal communities. Adidas has launched a sneaker made from virgin plastic that can be ground up and remade again, as part of the company’s bid to mitigate the plastic crisis.

The Futurecraft Loop shoe was launched April 17 by Adidas as a first step for the brand to help “get off plastic waste”. The aim was to create a product that could be recycled as part of a closed-loop system. To do this, Adidas developed a high-performance running shoe made completely from a single material, virgin thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). This single material is the key to its recyclability.

One of the biggest challenges in recycling sneakers is that they are made of many different materials, which are difficult to separate, sort and re-purpose. To test the Futurecraft Loop, 200 users trialled the sneakers then sent them back to Adidis for washing and grinding up into pellets, which wefre then heated for future sneaker components. Thus, the plastic pellets can be re-used to make a second edition, which will then be tested.

Adidas is not alone. Reebok manufactures a sneaker made from organic cotton upper and corn-based sole, which is then shipped with 100% recycled packaging.

For its 100% vegan sneakers, Veja uses organic cotton grown by farmer associations in Brazil and Peru that harvest it with respect for people and the environment and wild rubber that helps preserve 300,000 ac (120,000 ha.) of the Amazon rainforest. The fabric used for its Veja’s B-Mesh sneaker is crafted from recycled plastic bottles and its CWL trainer is made out of corn waste from the food industry.

In 2019, Kanye West, the American rapper, singer, songwriter presented a new sneaker prototype called the Yeezy Foam Runner, made in Atlanta from a combination of petroleum-based ethylene-vinyl acetate and foam produced from algae. West told the audience that his new Yeezy headquarters in Cody, Wyoming, would include a hydroponic farm where the company can grow its own algae.

By making foam from algae, the company can help clean waterways to protect wildlife and drinking water, and it can avoid using the fossil fuels typically used to make foam. The prototype pair West showed off were a bland khaki color, Yeezy is looking into environmentally friendly dyes. Manufacture will begin in 2020.

What you can do: Purchase planet conscious sneakers and footware.

Discover Solution 330: Water monitoring satellites

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