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Sympatex Introduces Recycled Laminate as Sustainable Alternative to PU Foam for Footwear

In line with the Lineapelle trade show in Milan this week, Sympatex is giving buyers a sneak-peek at a new “fleece-like” laminate compound made from recycled materials it says can replace the polyurethane (PU) foam typically used in footwear lining.

Sourcing the recycled textiles from a partner in Italy to make the material, Sympatex then integrates those textiles into its laminate compound to create a footwear lining it says reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 15 percent compared to traditional PU foam—along with reducing water usage by about one-third.

What’s more, Sympatex says the material provides a performance boost for its laminates, giving them a “decidedly positive” advantage when it comes to the breathability of laminated material.

“It is our conviction that our firm commitment to sustainability is serving as an impetus for innovation, [made] evident in this new footwear line of materials in a highly-convincing fashion,” Dr. Rüdiger Fox, CEO at Sympatex Technologies, said in a statement. “While many market partners view sustainability as a stranglehold on creativity, maintaining a clear focus with our innovation processes helps us to concentrate our energy, and thus produce new solutions for our customers at a much faster pace.”

According to Sympatex, roughly 800 kg of carbon dioxide is released for every 1,000 linear meters of PU foam, enough to create just 49 pairs of running shoes. That amount of waste equates to roughly the same amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by as many as 65 beech trees in a single year.

“We encourage the market to resort to these solutions in order to prepare for an unavoidable future in which there will be clear limits placed on the current overexploitation of our resources,” Fox said.

Sympatex unveiled the new laminate as a part of its “Agenda 2020” initiative, which counts upcycling and the reuse of raw materials among its main tenets, along with reducing carbon emissions and removing harmful chemicals from its products. Omitting PU foam from laminates leads to significant improvements in the material’s “ecobalance,” Sympatex said, noting that its efforts are in line with recommended practices provided by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s HIGG index.

The company’s latest footwear innovation prior to launching the new laminate, was a thermally molded lining for outdoor footwear that can create seamless shapes for insertion into footwear silhouettes.