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Puma Looks to Recruit Participants in its Biodegradability Pilot

Puma is asking the public to join its latest experiment in biodegradable sneakers.

Unveiled in November, the Re:Suede is made with Zeology-tanned suede, biodegradable TPE, hemp fibers and cotton—ingredients chosen with user comfort and biodegradability in mind. Puma hopes to put those qualities to the test this year with a six-month pilot.

German residents can now apply to be one of the 500 individuals who, alongside Puma brand ambassadors like model-turned-actress Cara Delevingne and French footballer Raphaël Varane, will test out the company’s Re:Suede sneaker. Participants will be asked to wear the shoes through their normal life for six months straight. Once the testing period is up, Puma will ask them to return the shoes for testing. In thanks, it will send each participant a new pair of Re:Suedes.

Those who wish to participate must register on Puma’s website by March 14. All entrants will be put into a sweepstake draw and those who are selected will be contacted via email. Puma plans to distribute the shoes in May. When the company originally unveiled the shoe in November, it had said the pilot would launch in January.

“We want participants to wear the Re:Suede as part of their daily routine,” Stefan Seidel, Puma’s head of corporate sustainability, said in a statement. “That is how we can gather realistic feedback about the durability of the materials used in the sneaker.”

Once the used Re:Suedes are returned, Puma will test them for biodegradability at an industrial composting facility operated by Ortessa Groep B.V., a family-run business of waste specialists in the Netherlands. Its goal will be to create Grade A compost for agricultural use. Puma said it will share the results of the experiment with industry peers “to find better solutions for the waste management challenges the whole industry faces.”

Though the Re:Suede experiment is the first circular program to emerge under Puma’s Circular Lab innovation hub, it also follows in the footsteps of the company’s InCycle collection. Launched in 2013, the line encompassed footwear, apparel and accessories—all of which Puma claimed were biodegradable or recyclable. After four seasons, Puma discontinued the endeavor “due to low demand and the need for further research and development,” it said.

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In the years since, Puma’s innovation department has worked to address the limitations of the InCycle collection. These learnings—including the use of Zeology suede—have been integrated into its new Re:Suede design.

In 2020, 50 percent of Puma’s products were made from what it has deemed “more sustainable materials,” including 81 percent of apparel, 47 percent of accessories and 24 percent of footwear. It plans to reach 90 percent by 2025.

Puma is not the only one exploring industrial composting. Earlier this week, OrthoLite, a supplier to more than 350 footwear brands—including Nike, Adidas, Reebok, Puma, Skechers, New Balance and Crocs—unveiled Cirql, a new midsole material it developed with circularity in mind. At its end of life, the zero-waste foam can be either depolymerized and recycled into a midsole of equal quality, or biodegraded into a nutrient-rich soil compost.