We continually look into more sustainable materials and advanced manufacturing processes. In the future world of product, we believe old products will no longer be seen as waste, but rather used as resources to make new products. Sustainability is part of how we do business and we want to enable the consumers to also minimise their impact on the planet.
adidas has already begun building the first steps in the chain towards closed-loop product by recycling excess pre-market product, handling large volumes of goods for further distribution or recycling that failed to meet our quality standards which we redirect from our distribution centres in Germany. We are now extending this to post-consumer in-store product take-back.
The many and varied waste management schemes in place where our products are used make the end-of-life stage a difficult one for us to address although we do engage with local waste managers. But in many cases we often also collect used sporting goods from consumers, check their quality and donate them for a good cause, either directly to people in need or to dedicated organisations.
Following pilot takeback programmes in Canada and Brazil, we are launching our Make Every Thread Count program in seven adidas stores in New York, Los Angeles, Paris and London, which are in pilot phase.
Take back programME: Make Every Thread Count
The main objective of the adidas Make Every Thread Count programme is to raise awareness of consumers on what happens to products at the end of their life. It supports the consumer to give its old clothes and footwear a second life. This creates an instant impact on the planet.
The consumers can drop off old shoes and apparel, from any brand. The collected items are then sent to the adidas Distribution Centre, where they are picked up by I:CO a specialized company. This company sorts products according to different quality criteria. Many products can still be worn and go into a second hand market. Products that are not apt for further use, are recycled into secondary raw material and become feedstock for new products in various industries. A small portion of products (less than 10%) cannot be recycled and thus is sent for disposal.
adidas designed the box using sustainable and “waste” materials which connect to Make Every Thread Count:
- The textiles on the outside of the box are adidas employee’s old clothes and pieces which were going to be recycled into rags for cleaning.
- Wood board and lettering is certified as sustainable.
- Canvas bag is undyed and responsibly sourced.
- Paint and adhesives are eco-labelled products.
For more information please download the Q&A file:
Projects developed until now
In January 2012, adidas Brazil launched "Sustainable Footprint", a voluntary take-back-and-recycle programme – the first of its kind in Brazil. This unprecedented initiative in the sports industry in Brazil intends to minimise the environmental impacts caused by improper disposal of sports shoes. Today, in Brazil, shoes are discarded together with other waste and end up in landfills or are incinerated, which causes emissions. Thus, the programme also seeks to raise awareness and engage users in the practice of conscious disposal and is in line with the principles of the Brazilian National Law on Solid Waste.
“Sustainable Footprint” invites consumers to leave their old sports shoes of any brand at designated containers in adidas stores. All products donated for recycling are forwarded to a specialised waste management company. They collect the products, shred them and send them to their final destination at cement kilns where the shoes are used for power generation (co-processing) and destroyed almost emissions-free.
“Sustainable Footprint” is present at all adidas stores in Brazil. Customers who donate their old shoes receive a small discount on the purchase of a new pair of adidas shoes. Currently, adidas stores are running an awareness raising campaign: employees working in retail do not only wear a "Sustainable Footprint" shirt once a week, they are also trained to give information about the programme to the consumers. Furthermore, since the beginning of 2013, most stores are showing a video about the programme which explains how old shoes end up generating energy. The programme has raised a lot of attention from media, civil society and government, and adidas Brazil has received a lot of positive feedback for taking up this topic.
In 2014, adidas America, adidas Originals Iberia and Reebok all piloted seasonal product take-back campaigns in partnership with not-for-profit organisations. Customer feedback was positive, with people reporting that it felt good to donate their products and treat them as a resource instead of waste.
The donated items were either distributed to individuals or organisations that support microenterprises in developing countries, or recycled.