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Adidas vows to use only recycled plastics by 2024

Sportswear brand plans to stop using virgin polyester for all shoes and clothing

Monday, July 16, 2018

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British media outlet The Financial Times reported yesterday that Adidas, the world's second-largest sportswear brand, is planning to use only recycled polyester in all its shoes and clothing within the next six years in a push to increase the sustainability of its supply chain.

The shift would see the brand, which launched the first mass-produced running shoe made from recycled water bottles in 2016, target five million in sales of recycled footwear this year, and 11 million in 2019, the Times said.

Also according to the Times, one million pairs of the recycled shoes, Ultraboost Uncaged Parley, which are currently offered at €179.95 on the company's German online site, were sold in 2017.

The goal, according to a quote attributed to Eric Liedtke, head of Adidas's global brands, is to get rid of virgin polyester overall by 2024. He said about 50 per cent of the material used in the 920 million individual items Adidas sells is polyester.

“With those kind of volumes, we cannot make the transition overnight,” Liedtke reportedly said.

The initiative is an outcome of the brand's partnership with Parley for the Oceans.

Each pair of shoes uses the equivalent of 11 plastic bottles, meaning Adidas is recycling some 55 million plastic bottles this year alone, Liedtke reportedly told a South by Southwest conference earlier this year, according to TheCurrent Daily.

Still, company executives have said that, while the figure seems impressive, it is a drop in the bucket given that the company makes 450 million pairs of shoes every year, and considering that there is currently 270 million tonnes of plastic in the ocean, with a further eight million tonnes being added every year.

“The growth of plastic just doesn't stop. It was a great invention, but it was made to never go away, so all that has been made is still floating around the world today. It becomes a real call to arms to fixing that,” TheCurrent Daily quoted Liedtke

In addition to using recycled plastics in some of its manufcaturing, Adidas has taken other steps that declare its war against polyester — a petroleum-based plastic. It has already eliminated the use of plastic bags in its retail operations, and has discontinued its body wash with micro pellet body wash.

But the move, according to the Times, could cost Adidas more since recycled polyester is 10-20 per cent more expensive than “virgin” materials.

However, industry experts believe the price gap between recycled and new plastics will close in the coming years as more companies shift to renewables and suppliers increase their ability to produce recycled materials in large quantities.

Brenda Haitema, who leads supply chain operations at Thread International, which makes fabric from recycled plastics used by brands such as Marmot, Timberland and Adidas subsidiary Reebok, told The Financial Times that: “Prices will come down as we develop more capacity to collect, clean and process used plastics.”

Adidas's move comes as more brands embrace recycled materials, in part to burnish their green credentials and increase their appeal as an anti-plastics movement has swept across the UK and Europe.

Clothing brands, including Patagonia and H&M, already use recycled polyester in certain items and fashion brand Stella McCartney has promised to stop using virgin nylon by 2020.

The Times said Adidas has been experimenting with making kits from recycled plastics for several years, and used re-used water bottles to make volunteer uniforms for the Olympic Games in London in 2012.

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