Reebok have announced that later this year they will be selling “bio-based footwear” – compostable shoes made entirely of plant materials.
The US footwear and clothing brand – owned by the German company Adidas – has unveiled an initiative called “Cotton + Corn” where, instead of materials coming from a non-renewable source like petroleum, they will come from “things that grow.”
The first product they intend to release will be a shoe with an upper made from organic cotton and a base made from corn grown for industrial – as opposed to food – use.
Reebok are launching a bio-based footwear initiative called Cotton + Corn where they “grow their shoes” from sustainable, plant-based materials. Image: Reebok
Moving away from petroleum
One of the goals of the new initiative is sustainability – hence the move away from the petroleum-based materials that most sports shoes are currently made of.
With bio-based footwear, the materials are sourced from plants that grow and can be replenished – such as cotton and corn. And at the end of the product life-cycle, 100 percent of the product is compostable.
Bill McInnis, Head of Reebok Future, says this is “really just the first step.”
He explains that ultimately they want to have a broad selection of bio-based footwear that ends its product life as compost in the soil that grows the plant materials for the next generation of shoes.
“We want to take the entire cycle into account; to go from dust to dust,” he adds.
Most shoes ‘just end up in landfills’
Reebok President Matt O’Toole says, “Unfortunately, the fact is most shoes just end up in landfills, which is something we are trying to change.”
He says the Cotton + Corn program is just the first of several they have in the pipeline that reflect the company’s increasing focus on sustainability.
Reebok have teamed up with DuPont Tate and Lyle Bio Products to source the natural materials in the Cotton + Corn concept.
DuPont Tate & Lyle already have a pure, petroleum-free, non-toxic, bio-based product made from field corn that is 100 percent certified by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The corn-derived product – called Susterra propanediol – will be used to make the base of the new bio-based footwear.
Adidas making sportswear from pollution plastic
Reebok’s new initiative reflects the drive of its parent company, which has been pushing a sustainability strategy for nearly 10 years.
In partnership with Parley for the Oceans, Adidas recently launched a range of sportswear made from “pollution plastic” – plastic that has been reclaimed from marine debris.
The company says it intends to eliminate virgin plastic entirely from its supply chain.
In 2013, researchers at MIT calculated that the process of making a typical pair of running shoes generates around 30 pounds (13.6 kilograms) of carbon dioxide emissions – equivalent to around 32 minutes of continuous driving in an average car.