Turning the Tide on Plastic Pollution, These Sneakers Are Made From Trash

Adidas’ new shoes are made from ocean waste and retrieved gill nets.
(Photo: Courtesy Adidas)
Dec 12, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

As world leaders came together to adopt a historic agreement to curb global warming, some industries are working toward environmentally friendly endeavors one step at a time.

Adidas created a 3-D-printed athletic shoe, which is partially made from plastic found in the ocean. It also used recycled polyester and illegal deep-sea gill nets, known to harm marine life.

Partnering with New York–based Parley for the Oceans, an initiative that aims at clearing oceans of plastic waste, the sporting goods company announced plans to begin collecting waste for the shoes back in April and debuted the shoes to coincide with the Paris climate summit.

“World leaders forging an agreement is wonderful, but we shouldn’t need to be told to do the right thing,” Eric Liedtke, Adidas Group executive board member responsible for global brands, said in a statement. “We want to bring everyone from the industry to the table and create sustainable solutions for big global problems.”

Between 10.5 billion and 28 billion tons of plastic were released into the oceans in 2010, according to a study released in February. Not only does that debris harm birds, turtles, and fish, but—between cleanup costs and pollution’s negative impact on tourism and human health—it also end up costing about $13 billion a year.

Adidas executives hope their recycling project educates consumers while at the same time creating a sustainable product.

Some experts are concerned that incorporating plastic into a shoe could be counterproductive. Harmful microfibers in shoes could shed in washing machines and eventually wind up back in the oceans.

But Adidas officials note that gathering ocean plastic is just one part of their plans for becoming environmentally friendly. The company has already begun phasing out the use of plastic bags in its retail stores and is working to eliminate the use of microbeads in its body care line.

For now, the German-based sports brand has just unveiled a prototype, but it’s hopeful that one day it can bring the shoes into stores.

“That’s the dream,” Liedtke told Women’s Wear Daily. “We haven’t figured everything out yet, but we continue to move forward.”