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Puma Sees a Rematch for Soccer Jerseys

Call it a replay for tired old shirts that need a new life.

German sportswear company Puma plans to recycle old professional soccer jerseys into new ones by using a new production process called Re:Jersey. It chemically breaks down old jerseys to create yarn and then reconstructs the garments.

Puma said this initiative will help reduce textile waste and pave the way towards more circular production in the future.

“With the Re:Jersey project, we wanted to develop ways to reduce our environmental impact, respect resources and reuse materials,” said Howard Williams, director of apparel technology at Puma. “The insights we gained with Re:Jersey will help us develop more circular products in the future.”

In the past, logos, embroidery and club badges on the shirts hindered recycling processes. But the Re:Jersey project changes that. The garments are chemically broken down or depolymerized into their main components.

Colors are then filtered out and the material is chemically put back together, or repolymerized, into a yarn with the same performance characteristics as virgin polyester.

Puma’s soccer jerseys are already made with 100 percent recycled polyester. This newest product will be made from 75 percent repurposed soccer jerseys and 25 percent Seaqual marine plastic made from marine litter, such as discarded fishing nets.

The first Re:Jersey shirts will be worn on-pitch during pre-match warm-ups. The first game is on April 23 in a match between Manchester City, a Puma club, and Watford Football Club, both in England’s Premier League..

Other Puma soccer clubs that will be wearing the jerseys in late April and May are AC Milan, Borussia Dortmund and Olympique de Marseille.

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The Re:Jersey project is part of Puma’s circular lab and sustainability platform. At the end of last year, Puma launched Re:Suede, testing whether it could make a biodegradable version of its suede sneaker.

Puma made 500 sneakers from Zeology-tanned suede, biodegradable TPE and hemp fibers and then sent the shoe out in January to 500 participants in Germany.

These 500 testers will evaluate the durability of the shoes’ biodegradable materials by wearing them throughout their everyday life.  After six months, they will send the shoes back to Puma to undergo an industrial biodegradation process in a controlled environment.

The goal will be to determine if Grade A compost can be produced for agricultural use. The company plans to share the results with the industry when it wraps up the experiment.

In 2020, 50 percent of Puma’s products were made from what it called “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.

That same year, 18.7 percent of the polyester used in its apparel was recycled. By 2025, it wants to raise that to 75 percent. Puma’s other mid-decade goals include rolling out take-back schemes in all major markets, researching biodegradable plastics options and reducing production waste sent to landfills by 50 percent.

Earlier this month, the sportswear brand announced it was teaming up with Australian manufacturer Modibodi to launch a line of underwear to help women stay dry and active during their period.

The Puma x Modibodi collection, which goes on sale in May, offers environmental upsides because it does away with disposable napkins and tampons that add to already over-burdened landfills.