Reebok, one of the world’s largest shoe companies, is thinking in the right direction about the materials that they use in manufacturing, creating a shoe that is made up mostly of natural materials.
The sole of the shoe is made from corn-derived biobased TPU (DuPont’s Susterra Propanediol), while the upper portion of the shoe is cotton, and the insole made using castor bean oil.
Reebok Future head Bill McInnis told Engadget, that the company plans to build upon this idea and focus on creating more sustainable products.
“We like to say, we are ‘growing shoes’ here at Reebok. Ultimately, our goal is to create a broad selection of bio-based footwear that can be composted after use. We’ll then use that compost as part of the soil to grow the materials for the next range of shoes. We want to take the entire cycle into account; to go from dust to dust,” McInnis said.
“First, with product development, we’re using materials that grow and can be replenished, rather than the petroleum-based materials commonly used today. Second, when the product hits the market we know our consumers don’t want to sacrifice on how sneakers look and perform. Finally, we care about what happens to the shoes when people are done with them. So we’ve focused on plant-based materials such as corn and cotton at the beginning, and compostability in the end,” McInnis told Digital Trends.
Hopefully, they are able to make naturally comprised shoes efficiently enough that these types of products become the standard.
Currently, most shoes are petroleum products, which leave an obvious adverse impact on the environment, in both the production and their disposal. With 20 billion shoes made each year, all of that waste and pollution adds up fast.
Reebok is currently selling the first version of the plant-based shoe on their website for 95$. It is likely that this price point will come down as research and development in this field grows and companies like Reebok are able to refine the manufacturing process. When technology is new like this it is typically overpriced, just think about how DVD players were massive investments when they first came out.
Unfortunately, Reebok was unable to make an entirely biodegradable shoe, and since the shoe is only made up of 75% natural material, it is not going to entirely disappear in the landfill during our lifetime, but it signals a huge step in the right direction for the industry.
In 2015, clothing manufacturer Adidas announced that they will be converting ocean plastic into new shoes and possibly even articles of clothing.
The effort is a part of a new partnership with “Parley for the Oceans”, a group of activists, artists and thinkers who come together to raise awareness about oceanic pollution. In addition to this new recycling project, Adidas is also making efforts to harvest their materials from fully sustainable sources.