Following in the footsteps of brands like Adidas, On, Teva and Glyph, the French sporting goods company debuted the ready-to-recycle Index.01 Thursday. First previewed last fall, the sneaker represents the result of three years of research and development, Salomon said.
The shoe consists of two parts, a polyester upper and a thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) bottom unit. Both can be recycled at the end of the sneaker’s life. The upper can be reused in fabric creation, while returned bottom TPU units will be ground down and reused for various purposes depending on the region. In Europe, for example, Salomon said it will incorporate recycled bottom units into the production of its alpine ski boots.
The only part of the shoe that cannot yet be recycled is the sockliner, which accounts for 8 percent of the shoe’s weight. According to Salomon’s website, it plans to stock the sockliners until it is able to find a recycling solution.
“The internal enthusiasm for the Index.01 reflects what we hear from our loyal community of outdoor lovers as well—that they are eager for brands like Salomon to find more sustainable ways to develop products,” Michael White, president of Salomon, said in a statement.
Creating the bottom unit’s TPU-based foam such that it retained performance while remaining recyclable proved “a key challenge” for the product team, Salomon noted. It found its solution in a nitrogen-infused, TPU-based foam it named “Infiniride.” After incorporating the technology into the bottom unit, the brand also invested its time ensuring the upper and bottom units could be separated and recycled after use, turning to water-based glue and recyclable polyester thread to minimize material contamination.
To reduce its transportation impact, Salomon introduced a regional recycling process for the Index.01. At the end of the shoe’s life, owners can visit the brand’s site, print a shipping label and ship the footwear to the closest collection center, free of charge. These centers, located across Europe, North America and the Asia-Pacific region, will receive, wash and dissemble the shoes and then ship the parts to local recycling partners.
“It’s important to also be sustainable and consistent across markets in how we’re collecting the Index.01 shoes at the end of their life because we don’t want them traveling all over the planet,” Olivier Mouzin, manager of Salomon’s footwear sustainability program, said in a statement. “That’s why, as a first step, we’ve set up collection centers in each region for consumers to ship their used shoes. From there, our recycling partners will begin the next step to recycle the used shoe materials locally.
The running brand is also taking steps to reduce packaging waste, including by eliminating extra hangtags and stuffing paper in Index.01 boxes. Beginning this spring, Salomon added, it will also use Forest Stewardship Council-certified packaging to ensure all materials come from sustainable and legal sources.
Recycling, repair and recommerce are being adopted by forward-thinking brands across the industry.
Earlier this month, Teva launched its TevaForever Recycling Program. Created in partnership with the recycling-focused waste management company TerraCycle, the initiative allows for customers to return all Teva shoes—at no extra cost—to be used to make playgrounds, athletic fields and track ground cover.
In February, Nike unveiled the Cosmic Unity, its first performance shoe to be made of at least 25 percent recycled content—according to Salomon’s website, the Index.01 consists of 15 percent recycled material by weight. Nike’s latest slate of eco-friendly shoes adds new colorways of the Cosmic Unity, as well as two other performance silhouettes—the Air Zoom SuperRep 2 Next Nature and the Nike Victory G Lite—made using at least 20 percent recycled material by weight. Meanwhile, the athletic giant also debuted a program reselling spruced-up, pre-owned sneakers while on the dress-front side, while Allen Edmonds “recrafts” as many as 75,000 pairs of its social- and office-ready oxfords, derbys, boots and more each year.