Salomon, today unveiled its concept for a new performance road running shoe that can be fully recycled into a ski boot. The result of more than a year and a half of research and development, the recyclable concept shoe can be ground down at the end of its life, allowing Salomon to take the pieces, combine them with new material and use them to construct an alpine ski boot shell. Salomon is working to implement elements of this concept in running footwear that will be available in 2021.
A shoe that can be ground down to and turned into a new product. I’m no recycling expert and it makes you wonder what can already be done with current products out there in the market. I’m aware that the foam used in Adidas’s boost shoes can be recycled and a select number of Parley shoes, but not the vast majority of their range (correct me if I’m wrong). We’re aware that many of the issues of recycling products is that if the entire product – be it packaging, a shoe, shirts, bottle etc etc – isn’t 100% recyclable, it contaminates the belt and increases land fill.
Yes we must improve our methods of recycling, up cycling and durability to prevent premature breakdown, but moving forward, creating a product that can be 100% recycled from the point of inception and creation, reduces the amount of resources needed to process the product.
“We recognize that we have to do better for the environment by creating Salomon footwearthat drastically reduces its impact on the planet,” says Guillaume Meyzenq, VP of Salomon Footwear. “By creating this concept shoe that can be recycled into a ski boot shell, we areshowing that it is possible to find alternative materials to create performance footwear. It’s anexciting development that will help lead us to more sustainable footwear solutions in the future.”
Roughly 30% of the global environmental impact caused by the footwear industry is due to the raw materials used in the products. To improve the carbon footprint of Salomon footwear, the company has been researching how to expand the lifespan of the material.
The key ingredient in the recipe of the recyclable Salomon concept shoe is thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). Instead of using multiple materials to create the shoe, as is the case in the construction of traditional athletic performance footwear, the concept shoe uses only TPU to construct both the upper and the bottom units. This innovative construction enables the grinding and the re-use of the raw material without downgrading the performance.
When the running shoe reaches the end of its life, Salomon is able to clean it and grind it into tiny pieces. These tiny pieces of TPU are then mixed with a bit of original (new) TPU and inserted into an injection machine to become a ski boot shell. The final ski boot shell has all the same performance characteristics as traditionally produced ski boots in the current Salomon range, which already use recycled plastics.
WHY IS THIS BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT?
Most traditional footwear construction relies on multiple materials such as cotton, polyester, EVA (Ethyl Vinyl Acetate) and rubber. Using multiple materials requires glue and stitching to bind those materials together. That makes most footwear nearly impossible to fully recycle because the materials must be separated from each other and the glue somehow extracted. Additionally, less energy consumption and no materials are wasted in the creation process of the Salomon concept shoe. Everything is utilized in the shoe.
To ensure that the upper of this concept shoe is breathable enough to run in, Salomon engineers relied on two kinds of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). One has an extremely lightweight, almost transparent appearance to it. The bottom unit offers cushioning that performs better than the EVA foam currently being used in most running footwear.
A NEVER-ENDING COMMITMENT
“As a leader in running and the largest ski boot manufacturer, this is a unique Salomon solution to footwear sustainability that extends the life-cycle of the materials used by up to 10 times and drastically reduces the effect on the environment,” Meyzenq added. “Our work isalways evolving in this area and it will be a never-ending journey, but this is an exciting stepforward that will help us find solutions in the future.”