Recycled Polyester to Reach 60 Percent Penetration at Adidas in 2021

Jean E. Palmieri
·3 min read

Adidas is continuing to advance its sustainability efforts.

On Monday, the German activewear brand said in 2021, for the first time, more than 60 percent of all Adidas products will be made from sustainable materials, including recycled polyester and sustainable cotton. These efforts will impact everything from soccer jerseys to a vegan version of its signature Stan Smith sneakers, the company said, and reflect its commitment to end plastic waste.

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Adidas has used only sustainable cotton since 2018, and by 2024, it will shift to using exclusively recycled polyester as well, it said. The brand uses Primeblue and Primegreen labels on its products to indicate those made from recycled materials.

“Sustainability is an integral part of the Adidas business philosophy,” said chief executive officer Kasper Rørsted. “We have continued to invest in sustainability initiatives during the coronavirus pandemic and we will significantly expand our range of sustainable products in 2021. To this end, for example, we have worked with our suppliers to create the structures that make it possible to process recycled materials on a large scale. Not only does our commitment make Adidas more sustainable, but it also drives the development of the whole industry.”

Since 2015 Adidas has been collaborating with the environmental organization Parley for the Oceans, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the oceans. That year, the two collaborated on a shoe made with Parley Ocean Plastic and unveiled it at an event at the United Nations in New York. This year alone, Adidas and Parley have collected almost 7,000 tons of plastic waste from beaches and coastal regions — which translates to around 350 million plastic bottles — and used this waste to manufacture around 15 million pairs of shoes and other products. The goal is to create 17 million pairs next year.

Other initiatives include working with partners to develop a plant-based leather and recycled cotton running shoe. And this year, it developed the Ultraboost DNA Loop, a shoe made from one single material and welded without glue. Once the shoe reaches the end of its life cycle, it can be shredded and the pieces reused. The first shoe was raffled off to consumers in October and by the spring of 2021, Adidas will launch its successor in larger quantities.

To further its commitment to recycled cotton, Adidas said it is working with Infinite Fiber, a Finnish start-up company, to develop a process to transform used clothes into a cotton-like material. The company is also working to create a leather alternative made from mycelium as a way to use less animal material and will use it to create footwear. The brand has also committed to completely ban the use of fur.

These sustainability efforts also encompass the company’s Reebok brand, which has committed to increase the number of sustainable products it offers. In 2018, Reebok introduced a plant-based shoe called the Cotton + Corn, and it also offers the Forever Floatride Grow, which is made from natural materials such as algae, eucalyptus trees and natural rubber.

Adidas is also working with Allbirds to create the world’s lowest climate footprint sports shoe, which will include reusable materials and be manufactured with renewable energies.

On the corporate side, Adidas has already reduced its carbon footprint by more than 50 percent in the past five years and is working with its suppliers to achieve global neutrality by 2050. Its manufacturing plants are generating environmentally friendly energy and the company continues to work to cut water consumption.

In September, Adidas issued a 500 million euro bond with the proceeds to be used to obtain recycled materials, invest in renewable energy and support underrepresented communities. The bond was five times oversubscribed, the company said.

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