There’s fucking plastic everywhere.
It’s in our sneakers, our clothes, and even the bags that retailers use to put our sneakers and clothes in. Most notably, it’s in the ocean. If you’re not an environmentalist or an ocean conservationist, you may not be aware of what plastic does to the ecosystem.
Scientists say there are about 8 million metric tons of plastic are thrown into the ocean every year. It’s estimated that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050. You may be thinking, “What does this really matter to me?”
Well the truth of the matter is, if the oceans die, we’ll also inevitably die with it. The sea is basically the life support system for the planet, providing 50 percent of the oxygen we breathe and regulating climate.
Trying to save the ocean isn’t just one company’s job, but Adidas is trying to do something. Now in its third year partnering with Parley for the Oceans, the company sold a million pairs of its ocean-friendly designed Parley running sneakers in 2017.
Its partnership with Parley has also extended beyond just product this year and to financial donations. For the month of June, World Oceans Month, Adidas will donate up to a million dollars to the environmental organization through its Runtastic app as a way to spread awareness of the cause as well as engage the running community.
“We really looked into how we could scale it up, especially Ultra Boost, because it’s one of our key franchises,” said Matthias Amm, Adidas Global Category Director of Running. “In 2018, we’re on target to [produce] five million pairs of sneakers with Parley plastic content.”
Since December of 2017, the production process of all Ultra Boosts has been standardized to be made with a form of Parley recycled plastic in the upper. The ultimate goal of the company is to incorporate yarns or materials recycled from Parley ocean plastic in every single knitted product it makes.
“We were limited in the supply chain in the beginning because getting the bottles to our supplier and regrinding to make the yarn out of it was not an easy process,” he said. “We basically went from zero to five million pairs, but we’re looking to stretch the supply chain and solutions to make it happen.”
Adidas is also looking beyond knit uppers and into incorporating recyclable materials in engineered meshes, wovens, and basically just making an entire shoe out of biodegradable materials. Designers are even tinkering with the idea of sustainable-made Boost cushioning.
Of course, the company, like others in the footwear industry, is still a long way from making a sneaker that performs to its standards a reality. But, key learnings in eco technology is something that Adidas is willing to share with its competitors.
“We don't see this as a competitive advantage, we see this as a problem that affects everyone and we can't solve it alone,” Amm said. “Everyone needs to get involved and everyone needs to do their contribution. We are open for that. Parley is open for that as well.”
Nike, Adidas’ biggest competitor, may not publicly tout or celebrate its partnerships with global environmental organizations through certain products like Adidas does with Parley for the Oceans, but it claims that 75 percent of all of its footwear and apparel products contain some recycled material. The Beaverton, Oregon-based brand has also announced plans of investing in improving the environmental standards of 100 percent of its factories and having zero waste in its supply chain by 2020.
All these moves by Nike and the like are applauded by Adidas execs. “Parley is not the only solution. We do not see other companies moving toward sustainability as a threat,” Amm said. “It's more like it's welcomed. It's not about us solving the world, it's about everyone solving the world together because we can not do it alone.”