Clean Tech

These shoes are running a campaign to keep the oceans plastic-free

Preeti Mehra | Updated on May 21, 2019

Trash hunt A large part of the plastic debris is washed up on the beach during tidal activity

Adidas is using plastic recovered from the seas to make shoes, jerseys and football kits

With eight million tonnes of plastic dumped annually into the sea, the world is faced with the grim prospect of more plastic in the oceans than fish by 2050. To avert this environmental calamity, several voluntary groups and businesses have been initiating efforts to intercept, recover and recycle the plastic that has found its way into the waters.

One innovative project that is up and running is by sports shoe manufacturer Adidas. The company hopes to discontinue using virgin plastic components from its products and packaging by 2024 and become carbon-neutral by 2050.

Last year, the company produced over five million pairs of running shoes from 95 per cent post-consumer recycled plastic recovered from oceans and beach clean-ups. This year, the company hopes to manufacture around 11 million pairs of the shoes before the end of the year — an over 100 per cent increase.

On the global front, Adidas has been partnering with Parley, a voluntary group, to prevent plastic from reaching the oceans and transforming this plastic into high performance sportswear. Hence, Adidas uses Parley Ocean Plastic material created from upcycled plastic waste instead of virgin plastic in the making of its ‘adidas x Parley’ products.

“Parley for the Oceans works with its partners to collect, sort and transport the recovered raw material (mainly PET bottles) to our supplier who produces the yarn, which is legally trademarked. With the production of one pair of Parley shoes, we prevent approximately eleven plastic bottles from entering our oceans,” explains Sharad Singla, Director Brand Marketing, Adidas India.

Awareness drive

To give the movement impetus and to spread awareness, every year, on June 8, which is World Oceans Day, Adidas organises its Run for the Oceans (RFTO) event on the crucial issue of ocean pollution. For this it uses its app Runtastic, which it acquired in 2015. The app, available on both iOS and Android, provides sports tracking and management solutions, and enables runners to track their progress while training.

This year, RFTO will feature from June 8 to June 16 on Runtastic. In India, this will be clubbed with inviting Mumbai city to Versova beach for a run and beach clean-up similar to the previous year. Once again, Adidas has extended support to Afroz Shah, a Mumbai-based advocate who has been dedicated to tackling marine pollution and was UN Champion of Earth in 2016 for the event.

The Run for the Oceans also includes a monetary component, with Adidas matching every km tracked with a $1 donation towards fighting marine pollution. “We will also be activating the movement in Delhi, Bengaluru, Goa and Chennai this year with local partners in the cities. Last year, we had 7,500 people running for the cause. We hope to double the number this time,” says Singla.

Though in India Adidas works with local factories to process plastic into yarn and Parleys is yet to enter the scene, over the years Parley for the Oceans has created quite a massive global network and works on several environment projects. It basically brings together all kinds of people dedicated to the cause of pollution and addresses threats to oceans.

The challenge

But this is not an easy task. Parley finds it a “big challenge” to retrieve plastic that floats in the sea, where the debris apparently break down into pieces even less than one-fourth of an inch. The centre of a vortex where the plastic concentration is highest is constantly moving. It is difficult to collect the plastic without harming fish and other sea life.

However, a large part of the plastic debris gets washed up on the beaches during tide activity and it is from here that Parley collects the plastic through its network.

This is then turned into products. Apart from shoes and jerseys, Adidas has also extended its ocean commitment by making football kits out of fabric derived from ocean plastic.

“For the 2018-19 season, all the third kits of leading football clubs including Manchester United and Real Madrid have been made from up cycled Parley fabric. It has additionally designed limited-edition Parley kits for Manchester United, which the ‘Red Devils’ wore on their summer tour of the US last year in a bid to raise awareness of the global plastic pollution crisis…. the power for change lies in the hands of the consumer — given we all have a choice — and the power to shape this new consumer mindset lies in the hands of the creative industries,” says Singla.

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Published on May 21, 2019
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