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Adidas Takes a Shot at Plastic Shoes

But it turns out that spinning ocean trash into shoes is really hard to do.

America’s love affair with reclaimed barnwood might have just met the newest up-and-comer in trendy, repurposed goods – make way for the Adidas x Parley, a running shoe with an upper comprised completely of recycled plastic.

About 16.5 old bottles and 13 grams of plastic from fishing nets retrieved from the coast of Africa go into a single upper on one shoe, according to a recent article in Wired. The repurposed plastic is stitched by a company called Parley for the Oceans, who has partnered with Adidas on this limited run of 50 pairs.

The reason for the limited release might not surprise you – turns out, spinning ocean trash into shoes is really hard to do. One of the reasons is the fishing nets which, get this, smell like rotting fish. This adds the need for a complex and intensive cleaning process before the nets can be used for thread. Additionally, those pesky nets are made from a heavy duty nylon that’s designed against dissolving in ocean salt, so making them soft enough for the shoes means grinding the plastic into a powder and then extruding it.

So while the project is ambitious, slow and low volume, Adidas and Parley for the Oceans hope it’s a step towards enhancing the R&D that’s required to make waste plastic a useful source of production material for a variety of items being manufactured today.

And projects that focus on sustainability almost never hurt when you’re a publicly traded company with lots of competition in the consumer goods arena. If that were relevant here.

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