To celebrate #worldoceanday, I decided to work on a compilation of sneakers companies that are pledging to help combat the excess use of plastic by turning it into a shoe material. Both indie and established brands are coming up with innovative solutions and creative designs. No need to compromise on style. If you’re a sneakerhead but with an eco-friendly heart, then here’s how to get the best of both worlds.
Shoes made out of recycled plastic. How does this work?
Although plastic remains an issue, a short-term solution is to opt for recycled over virgin plastic, to avoid an accumulation of plastic into our landfills and oceans. Ultimately, the goal is to get rid of plastic altogether. Disposable plastic bottles are made of P.E.T plastic (polyethylene terephthalate or PET). The latter is melted down, spun into fibers then woven into materials that can be used in shoes but also in clothes.
Here are some brands that have been actively using this technique to create dope sneakers.
Launched in 2015, the Adidas x Parley for the ocean collaboration has only grown stronger over the years and since the launch, millions of shoes and apparel have been sold. The German sportswear giant pledges to switch entirely to recycled polyester by 2024. Some of the yarn features Parley Ocean Plastic™ which is made from recycled waste, intercepted from beaches and coastal communities before it reaches the ocean. You recognize the Parley models with their trademark breathable, knit upper created from that yarn. Add to that a zero-dye technology, which requires fewer chemicals and less energy and water to produce. The Parley models remain high-performance, totally suitable for competition, but also for simple leisure. Prices range from $80 to $300 depending on the style. The collection also includes clothes, as well as the coveted collaboration with Stella McCartney. Adidas’ new awareness campaign started today, in collaboration with the Runtastic app. From June 8-16, Adidas contributes US$ 1 for every kilometer run to the Parley Ocean Plastic Program, to educate younger generations on marine pollution and waste.
Adidas, having this huge platform, is able to reach out to a massive number of consumers. Based on the success of their Parley collection, I can only hope that they will continuously strive for better choices, aligned with a lasting sustainability mindset.
VEJA has been amongst the first sneaker brands to use polyester fibers made out of plastic bottles. Their signature material: the B-Mesh, which a fabric made entirely out of recycled polyester. The result? A light, breathable and waterproof pair of shoes. The manufacturing plant is located in Santo André, Brazil where plastic bottles are collected, sorted, then transformed into B-Mesh. On average, 3 plastic bottles are needed to make a pair of VEJA. I am already a big fan of Veja shoes. I am wearing mine almost on a daily basis because they are supremely comfortable but also super stylish. It’s the kind of shoe that can quickly become a staple in your wardrobe. The keep the colors and fit simple in order to appeal to a maximum amount of people. I would not call them basic, but timeless.
I very recently found out that Sperry joined in on recovering plastic from marine and coastal environments with their BIONIC collection. Pulling inspiration from the nautical roots of the brand, the Bionic series is faithful to Sperry’s designs, except that the sneakers are woven with a yarn made from an average of 5 plastic bottles. I think they make for some cute summer shoes and I can definitely see these appeal to younger customers too. They cost on average between $50-70 (including the sales).
Vivobarefoot has a couple of styles made out of recycled PET. The Primus Lite, for instance, is worth a mention. Not in my usual vocabulary, but the word “fly” describes them well. Vegan, breathable, light yet resistant, their main characteristics is that they follow the natural shape of the foot for enhanced sensory feedback. My Yoga teacher keeps encouraging us to walk barefoot (including in the forest lol) and I feel like this could be a great compromise for those not ready to take off their shoes. I also included the Magna Trail which is a hiking boot per se, yet it could potentially pass for high-ankle sneakers. Personally, I could wear these every day. Prices vary depending on the style, between 130 and 190 EUR.
After Veja, we welcome a second French brand called Ector and it looks very promising. They use PES (polysulfones) which are a family of thermoplastic polymers, also coming from recycled plastic bottles. Using their KNIT technology which took 2 years of R&D to create, they are able to knit the recycled PES threads in one piece. Ector is vegan, and all the materials used for the shoes are 100 % recycled and recyclable which is important to highlight. The price for a pair is 99. EUR. A fair price considering the shoe is using modern technologies and is entirely made in France. They come up in a bunch of nice colors and I think they look really fresh.
About to take the world by a storm: NORM
After a successful crowdfunding campaign, this young and upcoming brand hails from Belgium. Designed in Belgium and crafted in Portugal, Norm sneakers are made out of 90% recycled materials with a carbon footprint reduced by 80%. In average, 6 bottles are recycled and 2 trees planted for each pair sold. NORM pledges to be fully transparent and strictly working with ethical suppliers and manufacturers. They also reveal the real cost and the margin of their products. They choose to come with a modern and, as they call it, a genderless design. I really enjoy the look of these. They look very comfortable (but not slouchy) yet sophisticated enough to wear for work. They give me those easy, sporty-chic vibes. I read that the price was around 150 EUR.
NAT-2 is a German brand dedicated to eco-innovation. Their shoes are created using clever, sustainable materials such as recycled PET felt, eco cotton, long lasting high-tech surfaces, as well as natural materials such as wood, real stone, rubber or funghi. The shoes featured pictured here incorporate microfibers from recycled PET and certified sustainable wood for their upper materials. They are made in Italy, under fair conditions, and vegan. The price: 350 EUR. Their shoes do stand out and in a good way. These sneakers look fun and quirky, a reminder that eco-fashion is not boring and never out of style.
Cardi B may not have been referring to Ecoalf with the shoes that “look like socks”, nevertheless I think these look way cooler than Balenciaga’s ;).
50% of the shoe is made of plastic bottles recovered from the bottom of the ocean while the sole is made out of rubber and algae. They look supremely comfortable and very well made. Depending on the style, the shoes range from 90 to 130 EUR. Very impressive is the fact that the Ecoalf Foundation involves more than 2500 fishermen in 32 ports, retrieving more than 300 tons of marine waste from the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea in just 4 years. I am amazed at how sleek and high-quality everything looks. Proof that you can create amazing pieces without wasting more resources from our planet. #becausethereisnoplanetb
If you love sneakers, then I hope you consider switching to a pair that uses recycled materials. Hard to resist when they also look as good as the ones featured here, in my humble opinion. Do you have a favorite? Let me know!