Adidas Produces a 100% Recycled Shoe in Less Than 8 Months

After delivering its 100% recyclable performance Futurecraft.Loop running sneaker to 200 beta testers in April with six weeks to wear them, Adidas will deliver the second generation of the shoe, which is made from components of the first, this month to testers.

And even though the Three Stripes turned this experiment around in less than eight months, the brand learned a lot from the experience. Mainly, according to Adidas senior manager of future technology and innovation Dharan Kirupanantham, Adidas learned it needs to be flexible with the returns.

adidas, Futurecraft Loop, recyclable shoes, sneakers
Adidas’ 100% recyclable performance Futurecraft.Loop Gen 2 shoe.
CREDIT: Adidas

“We received shoes back at different rates through the different cities [and] we didn’t get everything back as quickly as anticipated. This had an effect on the recycling and the production on the Gen 2,” Kirupanantham told FN. “What we did to counteract that was we took waste from [shoe] production and used all of it, so none of it sees the landfill. That complements the waste we got from the used shoes.”

Also, Kirupanantham said Adidas learned that the condition of the shoes returned didn’t impact its ability to recycle them.

“That was the most profound learning of the whole process, that someone could go hiking in South America with their shoes, return them, and that could be coupled with a pair of shoes that had been drawn on or a pair of shoes that had barely been worn,” Kirupanantham said. “The recycling process was able to deal with all of these different elements.”

adidas, Futurecraft Loop, recyclable shoes, sneakers
Adidas’ 100% recyclable performance Futurecraft.Loop Gen 2 shoe.
CREDIT: Adidas

The Futurecraft.Loop Gen 2 that will be returned to the testers is the same as the first, with some notable differences — mainly its faded blue upper, which differs from the off-white look of the original.

“We intentionally kept Gen 1 very natural to speak to the sustainability aspect. For Gen 2, we took a slightly different approach to show that sustainability doesn’t have to [mean] a restriction on design,” Kirupanantham said. “We infused color in a process called dope dying or solution dying where you add the dye to the polymer granules as you’re spinning the fibers. It’s like pushing spaghetti or Play-Doh through holes and as you see the fibers coming out they change color gradually.”

He continued, “This will help us learn [about] the impact of color on recyclability. When we get these shoes back, we’ll truly understand what the impact of including this blue has on the process with the recycled material coming out.”

adidas, Futurecraft Loop, recyclable shoes, sneakers
Adidas’ 100% recyclable performance Futurecraft.Loop Gen 2 shoe.
CREDIT: Adidas

Now that Adidas has proven it can make new sneakers out of old ones, the brand has arguably a tougher task to tackle next: to get customers to buy into the process.

“The way we’re trying to explore that behavior change and how we can affect that is through trying different approaches in all the key cities [where] we put the shoes out. Consumers in different regions have different needs and desires — that has to be taken into account,” Kirupanantham said. “Our hope is that consumers are engaged with the idea of sustainability, with the idea of the closed loop. We’re hopeful consumers are engaged with that part of the journey.”

And Adidas has its work cut out for itself: The target to make this product available to consumers is spring ’21.

adidas, Futurecraft Loop, recyclable shoes, sneakers
Adidas’ 100% recyclable performance Futurecraft.Loop Gen 2 shoe.
CREDIT: Adidas
adidas, Futurecraft Loop, recyclable shoes, sneakers
Adidas’ 100% recyclable performance Futurecraft.Loop Gen 2 shoe.
CREDIT: Adidas

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