The Loop: Recyclable Tennis Shoes

@adidas

The most recent shoe release from adidas sports a brand new cyclical business model. Their 4 step process (shown above) takes old shoes that are sent back from consumers to 1) be cleaned, 2) ground up, 3) melted down, and then 4) reformed.

Plastic is extremely hard to recycle. For those that aren’t familiar with plastic processing, there are two distinct types: thermoset and thermoplastic. The basic information you need to know is that thermoplastics can be melted and reformed, whereas thermosets (hence the name) remain set in a physical state (aka no melting, they just burn). So although most companies have a great ambition to fully recycle, it’s extremely difficult to do so.

Even within the thermoplastics range, you have multiple forms. If you’ve never looked at the bottom of a plastic part, go to your kitchen cupboard and pick a piece of tupperware up. Within the recycle symbol stamped in the bottom, there is a number. Those numbers range from one to seven. Look at this website if you want to see the distinct breakdowns for those sections.

Because each plastic is typically pretty unique in composition, remelting and reprocessing is very tedious and costly. Adidas has figured out a pure plastic process that can be optimized to reduce waste and take full advantage of the benefits of a TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane). According to their webpage for the launch (check it out here), they state over 91% of plastic throughout the world is not recycled. I’m not surprised. As someone who has been around plastics more than the average person (hi dad), I’m well aware of how much effort and time it takes.

So, for adidas – especially as a company as large and global as it is – to promise recyclability within its own structure, I think it’s a great initiative. Here’s a wonderful video showcasing the process of it all. Quite honestly, this completely blows my mind. A wonderful design and a monumental shift in changing the way we consume.