Footwear Giants Test Recycling Innovations in New Pilot

by | Jul 26, 2023

footwear recycling plant

(Credit: FastFeetGrinded)

A number of major footwear brands and retailers, including Adidas, Inditex, Target, and Zalando, have signed on to test and validate a recycling process.

The new pilot is being launched with Fashion For Good, a global initiative that aims to innovate the fashion industry toward greater sustainability, and footwear recycling innovator FastFeetGrinded. The pilot comes as the shoe industry is facing an uphill battle to reduce waste. A whopping 24 billion shoes are added to the market each year, with 90% of shoes being either landfilled or incinerated, according to a report from Vivo Barefoot.

FastFeetGrinded can deconstruct any type of pre- and post-consumer shoe and break it down into its macro-components, which are then ground down into smaller high-purity granulates. Those granulates can be repurposed, completing the shoe recycling process. FastFeetGrinded’s supply chain partners can produce output products such as outsoles, midsoles, and flip-flops.

In the pilot, retail partners and brands involved will divert their pre- and post-consumer footwear to FastFeetGrinded, where the materials will be recycled and transformed into new material granulates.

“This project will be a first in the footwear industry to allow us to understand the sustainable recycling technologies and infrastructures needed to accelerate the transition towards a circular future,” said Katrin Ley, managing director of Fashion for Good. “By fostering collaborative partnerships like this, where companies come together to share knowledge and validate innovation, we pave the way for scalable solutions.”

The program also comes as the demand for raw materials is expected to continue rising rapidly, tripling by 2050, according to Fashion For Good, which stated the dependence on virgin materials must decrease to improve sustainability. 

The fashion industry overall is one of the worst polluting industries, with the rise of fast fashion exponentially increasing the number of clothing items that end up in landfills. The footwear space is already innovating in this area, with Allbirds introducing its first-ever zero-carbon shoe earlier this month. 

Adidas has also partnered with other brands in an effort to publicize upcycled components of certain shoe designs. In 2020, the company developed new vegan footwear made from plant-based materials and upcycled fabric with American sneaker designer Sean Wotherspoon. 

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