In an act focused on sustainability in an industry known for its heavy environmental impact, Reebok has created its first sneaker made from plant-based materials. The Cotton + Corn initiative, announced in 2017 by the sporting-goods giant, touted the company’s decision to move to plant-based materials as a way to clean up both production and post-consumer use in an industry that typically relies on petroleum in manufacturing.
In addition to using 100 percent organic cotton for the shoe’s upper, avoiding the pesticides and herbicides used on traditional cotton, Reebok’s new sneakers use a corn product to create the bioplastic sole. To round out the grown-from-the-earth ingredients, the insole is designed from castor bean oil. The first product from this line to hit the market, the NPC UK Cotton + Corn sneaker, is the first shoe to be certified by the USDA as containing 75 percent bio-based materials. These products are sourced in partnership with DuPont Tate & Lyle Bio Products, a company known for creating bio-based solutions for a variety of markets.
While using these plant-based ingredients is innovative, the overarching work toward sustainable shoes doesn’t stop there. Reebok has a three-part, fully sustainable cycle envisioned for the Cotton + Corn product line that considers production, wear and post-use. It is well on its way to achieving that goal, because the sneakers are completely compostable at the end of their wear cycle. The life cycle continues from there, when that compost is then used for the next generation of shoes. This is in deep contrast to the estimated 20 billion shoes produced annually, nearly all of which eventually end up in the landfill, where they take hundreds of years to decompose. Plus, Reebok has taken the added steps of removing toxic dyes from the production process and shipping the shoes in 100 percent recycled packaging.
Following a successful launch, the first run of the new NPC UK Cotton + Corn sneaker is currently sold out. Company representative Lizzy Manno reports that Reebok does not yet have a date for when the shoes will be in stock again, but we certainly can’t wait until these plant-based sneakers are back on the market.
Images via Reebok Media