Adidas to Pursue ‘New Breed’ of Fully Recyclable Sportswear

If the company's Sports Infinity research bears fruit, your next pair of soccer cleats could be made of materials recycled from a spectrum of industries.

Adidas to Pursue ‘New Breed’ of Fully Recyclable Sportswear Photo (cc) by autumn_bliss

Don’t throw away your old, worn-out soccer cleats. Adidas wants to recycle them and make you a pair of new shoes.

Adidas, the world’s second largest maker of athletic wear (after Nike), recently unveiled its plans for a three-year research project on “infinity-cycling,” which would create a new type of fully recyclable sporting goods. The goal is to eliminate waste while providing consumers with new shoes and sports gear.

“In a world of limited resources, recyclable materials is something we as an industry need to be leading in,” said Gerd Manz, technology and innovation vice president at Adidas and head of the new project.

The idea behind “Sports Infinity” is that you’ll never have to throw away your worn-out sporting goods again.

Instead, “every gram of sportswear … will be broken down to be remoulded again in a waste-free, adhesive-free process that gives consumers more scope for personalization than ever before,” Adidas said.

The Sports Infinity research project, which combines old sporting goods with excess materials from other industries, is being funded by the European Commission.

The German sporting goods giant said if the research goes well, “infinity-cycling” will mean that your next pair of soccer cleats could contain anything from “carbon used in aircraft manufacturing to fibers of the [cleats] that scored during the World Cup.”

Although Adidas’ attempt to go green is praiseworthy, it’s too early to tell what kind of impact it could have on the environment.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Adidas is one of several retailers, including Levi Strauss & Co., H&M and Nike, that are trying to market themselves as environmentally friendly.

Nike Inc. has since the 1990s collected used athletic shoes and recycled them into performance gear and incorporated them into sports surfaces such as soccer courts. Greenpeace, however, in its latest assessment identified Nike as a “Green washer” — a company that cynically uses green marketing to appear more environmental than it is. Greenpeace said “the ambition level and the transparency Nike demonstrated to consumers is questionable.”

During the Sports Infinity research project, Adidas will work with a number of other industries, including German chemicals giant BASF SE and Austrian design and brand consultancy firm Kiska GmbH.

“Sport Infinity is the next step in our commitment to innovation and sustainability,” said Glenn Bennett, executive board member of global operations at Adidas. “This project will close the sustainability loop, creating a high-performance product that can always be recycled.”

What do you think of Adidas’ plans to go green? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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