The idea of recycling something comes in many forms, but some are easier than others. When you hollow out your busted Apple computer to turn it into an iMac Aquarium, you’re still counting on the aesthetic that is already there. You’re not starting off by reducing it to its base material, that’s why we differentiate by calling the iMac Aquarium a great example of upcycling.
But true recycling is a complicated process that includes collecting the waste, reducing it to its base material, then using that material to build a product from the ground up. For instance, take ocean plastic. With over 220 million tons of plastic produced each year, it’s no wonder that a frightening amount of it winds up as pollution in our oceans.
The question we should be asking isn’t just, ‘what can we do about it’, but ‘what can we do with it.’ Adidas has thrown their hat in the ring with an innovative recycled ocean trash sneaker.
When you think of ocean plastics, your first thought probably won’t be the German apparel company Adidas. They’re aiming to change that. By teaming up with Parley for the Oceans, an initiative dedicated to raising awareness about the fragility of our oceans by collaborating on projects with big-name brands, Adidas hopes to make a name for itself as the sustainable apparel brand. Alongside the creation of this‘Ocean Trash Shoe’, they’ve also completely phased out plastic bags from their stores worldwide. A solid first step in the right direction.
“The conservation of the oceans is a cause that is close to my heart and those of many employees at the Adidas Group.” -Eric Liedtke, Adidas Group Executive Board member responsible for Global Brands
To create the funky looking sneakers, with their wavy lines and aquatic color scheme, Parley and Adidas enlisted the help of the Sea Shepard Conservation Society to retrieve trash from our oceans. Not only was general plastic ocean waste gathered, the design of the shoe called for the collection of deep-sea nets. For this, the Sea Shepard tracked an illegal poaching vessel off the South African coast for 110 days, collecting their illegal deep-sea gillnets and preventing them from winding up as further garbage in our oceans.
With the waste collected, the materials were put through a complicated progress of repurposing. The upper half of the shoe was created entirely with filaments and yarns reclaimed from the gillnets and other ocean waste. To create a comfortable fit, the base of the shoe was created using a sustainable cushioning material. The result is a sneaker that’s both trendy and sustainable. But don’t count on picking up a pair of ‘Ocean Trash Shoes’ at your local Adidas outlet; these stunning wearables, are one-off concept creations.
“This is not a plan, this is an action. We did this to show what we are capable of doing when we all put our heads together.” -Adidas spokesperson
So you won’t be able to get your hands on them. Bummer. You might ask, what’s the point? Well, beyond the obvious promotional boon (we’re writing about it, aren’t we?), the creation of these ‘Ocean Trash Shoes’ has provided the company with insights on how to incorporate ocean waste sustainability into their production line. But they weren’t quite there yet. So they used the knowledge they’d gleaned from this project and incorporated it into their next step towards sustainable production.
To coincide with the United Nations’ COP21 Climate Change Summit, Parley for the Oceans and Adidas once again collaborated on an updated version of their sustainable ‘Ocean Trash Shoes’ for the Parley for the Oceans x COP21 — Oceans. Climate. Life. press event at the United Nations in New York. Not only has the look changed, the entire construction of the shoe has shifted thanks to the explosive rise of 3D printing technology.
Much like their first foray, the upper part of this shoe is made from ocean plastic waste. The difference lies with the fact that the midsole, constructed from recycled polyester and gillnets, is made through the use of 3D printing techniques.
This enhanced version of their ‘Ocean Trash Shoe’ is the sum of the material and technological insights these projects have provided Adidas and Parley, along with Adidas’ own 3D printed shoe technology dubbed ‘Adidas Futurecraft’. Although again merely a concept and not a retail item, Adidas has vowed to incorporate their learnings into their production line, but what this means exactly remains to be seen.
Will they change the material of their entire apparel line to a more sustainable alternative? Doubtful, since such a change would be unprecedented and incredibly costly. But dare we hope that using recycled materials for the creation of their shoes will be the next step? If a brand like G-Star RAW can turn the concept of recycling ocean trash into an entire line of clothing, surely Adidas can make a dent in the industry through sustainability as well. If they put their money where their mouth is.
“We are extremely proud that Adidas is joining us in this mission and is putting its creative force behind this partnership to show that it is possible to turn ocean plastic into something cool.” -Parley founder Cyrill Gutsch