Adidas Is Dramatically Expanding Its Plans for Making Sportswear Out of Recycled Materials

July 16, 2018, 8:59 AM UTC

The sportswear giant Adidas has been trying to cut down on its use of new plastic over the last few years—it has stopped providing plastic shopping bags in its stores, and started using recycled ocean plastic debris as a material in certain shoes and other products.

Now the German company is doubling down on its sustainability push, telling the Financial Times that it is phasing out the use of virgin polyester over the next six years. Instead, by 2024, Adidas will only use recycled polyester in its shoes and clothing.

Adidas’s head of global brands, Eric Liedtke, told the paper that polyester accounts for half the materials used in Adidas’s products, so “we cannot make the transition overnight.” The article notes that recycled polyester is currently 10-20% more expensive than new polyester, but the price difference may drop as suppliers produce recycled materials in greater volumes.

Adidas (ADDYY) first produced performance shoes and soccer jerseys made from recycled ocean plastics and polyester in 2016. It began with relatively modest goals. Last year, it aimed to make a million pairs of ocean-plastic-based UltraBOOST running shoes; next year, the goal is to make 11 million recycled pairs of shoes, representing just 3% of its total shoe production.

“We have to make sure we take right-sized bites so that we can maintain our current margin structure,” Liedtke told the FT. “We can absorb some costs every year, but we could not absorb it all in one year.”

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