In the not-so-far future, our products will no longer be seen as waste at their end of life, but rather as sources of valuable resources for new products. adidas has already made the first steps toward creating a closed-loop product. We recycle excess pre-market product, handle large volumes of goods for further distribution and recycle those products that fail to meet our quality standards by redirecting them from our distribution centers in Germany.
While we engage with local waste managers, 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. Often, we 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 organizations. Ultimately, this circular mindset has resulted in our in-store product Take Back program.
TAKE BACK PROGRAMS
In 2012, we launched ‘Sustainable Footprint’, a voluntary take-back-and-recycle program – the first of its kind in Brazil. This initiative in the Brazilian sports industry was only just the beginning of our take back journey globally, which is continuing to expand its consumer reach. Following further pilot Take Back programs in Canada in 2016, we launched a Take Back program as a pilot in nine adidas stores in New York City, Los Angeles, Paris and London the year after.
The programs aim to raise consumer awareness of what happens to products at the end of their life. We then support their desire for corrective action by providing them a way to give old clothes and footwear (of any brand) a second life. The footwear and apparel are collected in boxes and then sent to the adidas Distribution Center, where they are picked up by I:CO. I:CO specializes in sorting products according to different quality criteria. Many products can still be worn and go into a secondhand market. Products that cannot be further used are recycled into secondary raw material for new products in various industries. A small portion of products (less than 10%) cannot be recycled and thus must be disposed of.
To establish complete circular recycling processes, adidas has been further testing consumer-friendly solutions for the return of used products since 2019. In the UK, the program “Infinite Play” allows consumers to return adidas footwear or apparel to adidas partner Stuffstr using the adidas app and to receive a voucher for the company’s online store. The returned products will be resold or, if that is not possible, recycled.
CLOSED LOOP SOLUTIONS
adidas is also working on making products easy to recycle with the goal of completely eliminating waste. The first fully recyclable running shoe, “Futurecraft Loop”, is made from a single recyclable material from sole to laces and is fused together without the need for glue. After an initial test phase with 200 athletes in 2019, the shoes were returned to adidas and the company recycled them into components for new shoes. This second generation of “Futurecraft Loop” shoes is already back in the testers’ hands. The market launch is planned for 2021.