Reebok to ‘grow’ bio-based footwear

Fitness giant Reebok has announced a new product development initiative which will lead to the launch of footwear made from "things that grow" later this year.

Reebok’s Cotton + Corn initiative was announced on Tuesday (4 April) and aims to bring plant-based shoes into the market at some point in 2017. The first release will be footwear comprised of organic cotton for the upper material and a non-food source industrial corn shoe base.

“This is really just the first step for us,” Reebok Future’s head Bill McInnis said. “With Cotton + Corn we’re focused on all three phases of the product lifecycle. First, with product development we’re using materials that grow and can be replenished, rather than the petroleum-based materials commonly used today. Second, when the product hits the market we know our consumers don’t want to sacrifice on how sneakers look and perform.

“Finally, we care about what happens to the shoes when people are done with them. So, we’ve focused on plant-based materials such as corn and cotton at the beginning, and compostability in the end.”

The fitness apparel firm’s innovation department, Reebok Future, partnered with DuPont Tate and Lyle Bio Products to deliver the bio-based solution. DuPont has worked with Lyle to develop a petroleum free, non-toxic 100% bio-based product that has been certified by the US Department of Agriculture. This produce will be used to create the sole of the footwear.

While little information has been released on a release date or product quantity, Reebok is already planning on composting the footwear once its older to help grow the next range of shoes.

“We like to say, we are ‘growing shoes’ here at Reebok,” McInnis added. “Ultimately, our goal is to create a broad selection of bio-based footwear that can be composted after use. We’ll then use that compost as part of the soil to grow the materials for the next range of shoes. We want to take the entire cycle into account; to go from dust to dust.”

Reebok has taken a different route from sportswear rival Adidas in the quest to produce closed-loop products. Last year, Adidas announced plans to produce one million ocean plastic pairs of trainers by 2017.

Adidas and its collaborative partners claim that this target will use at least 11 million plastic bottles retrieved from coastal areas. The trainers consist of 95% ocean plastic and 5% recycled polyester. The one million target will form part of a wider collaborative commitment to “make eco innovation the new industry standard” through the Parley A.I.R. Strategy.

The strategy calls on companies to avoid, intercept and redesign in order to end long-term plastic pollution in marine environments.

Elsewhere, Timberland has partnered with tyre manufacturer and distributor Omni United to produce a line of tyres intended to be recycled into footwear out-soles, scheduled for rollout from winter 2018 or spring 2019.

Matt Mace

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