Adidas recycle ocean plastic for sustainable sports shoes

A recycled ocean plastic training shoe nestles amongst discarded fishing equipment on the New York harbour.

Categories: Materials

3 March 2016


The development of plastic has dramatically altered the way we live, forever. Evolving from experiments on natural and chemically modified natural materials, the first completely synthetic plastic material, Parkesine, made its way onto the market back in 1856. From that point onwards, improvements in chemical technology led to a boom in plastic production, making it one of the cheapest and most available commodities on earth. The disposal of the resulting plastic explosion, however, remains the darker side of this material’s rise to fame. Having been chemically engineered to remain strong and durable, the lifespan of many plastics stretches into centuries, leading to a build-up of indestructible plastic waste. Today for example, shoppers use more than 500 billion single-use plastic bags every year, contributing to the 270,000 tonnes of plastic waste that float on the surface of the ocean.

Sports giant Adidas last year vowed to make a change to halt our love affair with plastics, partnering with Parlay for the Oceans to raise awareness and end the plastic pollution of the oceans for good. Alongside phasing out plastic bags in stores across the world, Adidas showcased the world’s first sports shoe upper made entirely from the yarns and filaments of reclaimed and recycled ocean waste.

In December 2015, following the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, Adidas and Parlay for the Oceans went on to unveil a progression of their original concept shoe, this time featuring a 3D printed ocean plastic shoe midsole. Again using gill nets and plastic waste reclaimed from the ocean, the design of the midsole can be customised to the wearer, cushioning the foot. The intricately designed sole is then 3D printed to eliminate any further waste materials.

Eric Leidtke, Group Executive Board member for Adidas Global Brands said the concept was a statement of intent for the company. He said, “Together with the network of Parlay for the Oceans we have started taking action and creating new sustainable materials and innovations for athletes. The 3D printed Ocean Plastic shoe midsole stands for how we can set new industry standards if we start questioning the reason to be of what we create”. As part of the sportswear manufacturer’s ongoing commitment to sustainability, Adidas and Parlay for the Oceans have recently suggested that a range of consumer-ready, ocean plastic products may be reaching our shelves later this year.

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