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Adidas Closes the Loop with New 100 Percent Recyclable Sneaker

Adidas is pushing the limits of upcycling with its new 100 percent recyclable sneaker, the Futurecraft.Loop—a high-performance running shoe designed to be worn, returned and remade.

Drawing from the experience gained from its partnership with Parley for the Oceans, in which the brand produced 6 million pairs of sneakers and pledged to make 11 million more in 2019, Adidas will attempt to close the loop as tightly as has been seen in footwear. The Futurecraft.Loop will be composed of a single material, thermoplastic urethane or TPU, and Adidas says it can be broken down entirely for repurposing into the next generation Loop products.

“Taking plastic waste out of the system is the first step, but we can’t stop there,” Eric Liedtke, executive board member responsible for Global Brands at Adidas, said in a statement. “What happens to your shoes after you’ve worn them out? You throw them away—except there is no away. There are only landfills and incinerators and ultimately an atmosphere choked with excess carbon or oceans filled with plastic waste. The next step is to end the concept of “waste” entirely. Our dream is that you can keep wearing the same shoes over and over again.”

To achieve this dream Adidas spent “close to a decade of research and development” working with its international manufacturing and material partners to create the Futurecraft.Loop.

According to the brand, the biggest hurdle in the design process was getting around the traditional pitfalls that normally prevent footwear from being recyclable—namely the fact that most shoes are made by gluing multiple components together, resulting in a product that can only be downcycled.

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To get around that, Adidas ditched the glue and instead constructed the Futurecraft.Loop to be, essentially, a knitted upper molded and clean-fused directly to a Speedfactory-produced Boost midsole. Although it hasn’t detailed exactly how the process will work outside of a few unconfirmed reports, Adidas says it will compel wearers of the Futurecraft.Loop to return the shoes to Adidas to be deconstructed and have its TPU repurposed. Each shoe will be washed, ground into pellets and then melted down to return the material to its base state.

Although it isn’t possible to completely eliminate waste, Tanyaradzwa Sahanga, manager of technology innovation at Adidas, believes the Futurecraft.Loop will help change the way people view waste in fashion, inspiring others to take even more plastic out of the environment.

“We set out to create a new type of product that we can take back, grind up and reapply into new Adidas product,” Sahanga said. “We knew this was a far-reaching vision in every way; technically and even behaviorally! There were times when it didn’t seem like we could get over some of the technical hurdles—now we’ve made the first leap, the playing field has changed. We cannot create a circular future on our own, we are going to need each other. We’re excited to see this first step come to life as part of the beta launch.”

The first generation of the Futurecraft.Loop will be made available through a global beta program including “200 creators from across the world’s major cities.” Adidas says it will use the input gained from the beta to inform the second generation, which should be accessible by the general public around Spring/Summer 2021.