Nike and Abel Kiriu go distance for green Olympics

Marathon world champion Abel Kirui will take his place at the starting line at the London Olympics this Sunday kitted out head to toe in sustainable performance footwear and clothing.

The Kenya singlet he will wear is made from Nike fabric that stems from three recycled plastic bottles. To make the fabric, bottles are ground into flakes, melted and then spun into special thread.

The Kenyan colours have been added using a water-free dye process. Earlier this year Nike announced a parternship with DyeCoo, a Netherlands-based company that has developed and built the first commercially available waterless textile dyeing machines.

By using recycled carbon dioxide, DyeCoo’s technology eliminates the use of water in the textile dyeing process. On average, textile dyeing uses around 100-150 litres of water to process 1kg of textile material.

The synthetic textile dyeing industry consumes 2.4 trillion gallons of water per year – as part of its commitment to sustainable design, Nike has been exploring this technology for the past eight years and aims to scale it for larger production volumes in the future.

Utilising CO2, an inert and non-toxic gas that is available as waste from other industries, waterless dyeing also produces 50-60% less carbon emissions than conventional dyeing methods.

Kirui will also run in the Nike Flyknit Racer shoe, featuring a technology that enables running shoe uppers to be designed from knitted threads. These are engineered for structure and lightweight performance while minimising material waste during the production process.

Olympics’ global design director Martin Lotti said elite athletes demand high performance technology that delivers every time they train and race.

“The recycled fabric and water-free dye process we have used for the Kenya singlet is the perfect combination of lightweight performance and low environmental impact,” he said.

Maxine Perella

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