After announcing the capsule in March, Puma and First Mile released their first collection of apparel and footwear produced from recycled plastic yarn collected in support of “micro-economies” in countries including Haiti, Honduras and Taiwan.
Items in the Puma x First Mile collection will provide “maximum performance” during workouts, according to Puma, while supporting both sustainability and the welfare of those less fortunate.
Each apparel item in the capsule features between 83 percent and 100 percent recycled polyester produced from plastic bottles recovered from the network run by First Mile, which works with local economies in impoverished areas to collect plastic waste from entrepreneurs and turn it into quality yarn for apparel, footwear and other products. Fifty percent of the footwear uppers, meanwhile, are made from the recycled yarn.
“Even though one of the key benefits of this partnership is social impact, the Puma and First Mile program has diverted over 40 tons of plastic waste from landfills and oceans, just for the products made for 2020,” Stefan Seidel, Puma’s head of corporate sustainability, said in a statement. “This roughly translates into 1,980,286 plastic bottles being reused.”
First Mile weaves social benefits into the supply chain that produces the yarn, according to the organization, engaging collectors from the areas it sources from and offering them business development and health safety training along with access to health care, mentoring programs and scholarships.
First Mile says it sourced the raw material for the 2020 Puma x First Mile collection exclusively from Taiwan, though it maintains a network of licensed yarn spinners and textile mill partners all over the world.
In order to create the yarn, First Mile collectors source plastic bottles from collection centers in targeted communities, sort and bundle them, then transfer the bottles to a recycling facility. There, the bottles are ground up into plastic flakes and extruded into pellets, which are turned into fine strands and “texturized” to create a soft fiber that can be spun into yarn.
“By investing in this work, we see cleaner communities, self-sufficient families, and pride and dignity brought to a profession that is often met with stigma,” said First Mile, which has worked with brands including Ralph Lauren and Aerie. “Not all of the collectors we work with wish to stay in waste collection forever, and in some instances, First Mile has developed pathways and partnerships for them to pursue other career or educational interests.”
First Mile says it tracks materials from collection to fabric production and makes a point to employ individuals from each country it sources from to maintain collection network databases and keep tabs on the program’s community impact. Then, each of these partners submits monthly reports to the central team to verify compliance.
“We hope that whoever buys this collection feels good about this purchase, not just in terms of choosing something that uses sustainable material, but knowing that those entrepreneurs in the First Mile are being connected to this product because it’s their material going into it,” Kelsey Halling, head of partnerships at First Mile, said.
“The more we can connect that last mile with the first mile, the easier this sustainable movement will be able to continue,” she added.
The Puma x First Mile collection consists of jackets, pants, shoes, shorts and tees for both men and women, including more than 60 options for apparel and 25 styles of LQD Cell sneakers.
Pieces in the collection, which launched on Feb. 21, are priced between $40 and $110.