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The adidas Sustainability Series

Taking real action in sustainability today means reducing the plastic waste of tomorrow. Teams across adidas have worked on innovating new sustainable materials and processes that are better not only for adidas but also for our industry, paving the way for a circular future of sports.

Today, James Carnes, VP of Brand Strategy, shares the adidas Three Loop Strategy to end plastic waste and scale circular efforts to make sustainable clothing mainstream. Join him in the adidas sustainable materials library.

Video transcript with James Carnes, VP of Brand Strategy:

I can teach my kids a lot about the facts, what decisions they could make. What they teach me very clearly is this simple logic and discipline about living and doing the right thing. For them, it’s obvious. Why would you ever choose a plastic straw again? It’s baked into their DNA as they grow up. For them, there is no choice. You do the right thing.

Every single one of these projects brought together hundreds of people in adidas. What’s unique about this is that while the initial idea might come from a startup or one person, the call to action is bigger than anything I’ve seen. That’s pretty unique.

How you end plastic waste is a really big task. That’s where we look at three ways that we start to build up the ability to end plastic waste.

The ‘Three Loop’ Strategy

It’s pretty easy, but it requires different levels of scale and technology and science behind the three different loops.

Three different circles symbolizing the adidas Three Loop Strategy. plastic waste, adidas Three Loop Strategy,sustainability, GamePlan A
adidas Three Loop Strategy to recycle, remake and return our products to nature.

1. Recycled loop – made from recycled materials:

The first loop is recycling. That’s the first, most available task for us to get after.

That’s building product like this shoe made out of all recycled materials that we offered to football teams during the Super Bowl LIV.

Instead of using virgin polyester or fresh material to build the product, we source the material from another available stream that’s recycled. Recycled polyester is our number one goal there. We also get on to other recycled materials.

2015 was the first time we partnered with Parley for the Oceans to create the first-ever running shoe made with recycled plastic waste, collected from beaches and coastal communities before it reaches the oceans. Within this partnership we introduced Primeblue and Primegreen performance fabrics, where 100% of the polyester used is recycled.

Close-up of a woman wearing a white adidas tank top after a run. plastic waste, adidas, Primeblue, sustainability, GamePlan A
Primeblue is a sustainable performance fabric which contains Parley Ocean Plastic.
A person lacing up white adidas running shoes. plastic waste, adidas, Primeblue, sustainability, GamePlan A
100% of the polyester used in Primeblue and Primegreen is recycled.
A close-up of a sleeve of a white adidas training jacket. plastic waste, adidas, Primeblue, sustainability, GamePlan A
New innovative fabrics help us reach our goal to shift to recycled polyester in all adidas products by 2024.
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2. Circular loop – made to be remade:

Even if you had 100% of your materials recycled, you would still be creating product that ends up in a landfill, so you’re not ending plastic waste. The second loop is the circular loop. That’s where you create product like the FUTURECRAFT.LOOP running shoe (other prototype concepts include the FUTURECRAFT.LOOP anorak jacket).

Here, the challenge is to create a shoe that’s made to be remade. While these are made from recycled materials or made with Parley Ocean Plastic, these have to be made to be remade, which means that you can take the product and completely recycle all of the ingredients and put them back into the supply chain.

To do that, you have to invent new materials and new processes. In the FUTURECRAFT.LOOP, you have all one material for the shoe. This is all TPU, the outsole, the Torsion bar, Boost , the upper, and even the laces and the sockliner are all made out of TPU. Then, you have to make sure it doesn’t get glued together because glue is the number one contaminant if you try to recycle something.

Two adidas Futurecraft.LOOP running shoes surrounded by a circle of material. plastic waste, adidas, Futurecraft Loop, sustainability, GamePlan A
Only eight months after receiving the first FUTURECRAFT.LOOP generation, GEN 1 shoes were remade into components for GEN 2.
A person is putting on an adidas Futurecraft.LOOP running shoe. plastic waste, adidas Futurecraft Loop, sustainability, 2 generation, GamePlan A
The first fully recyclable FUTURECRAFT.LOOP running shoe has been tested since 2019.
A laydown of all single parts of the adidas Futurecraft.LOOP shoe. plastic waste, adidas Futurecraft Loop-sustainability, process, GamePlan A
From the outsole to the laces, all made out of one material so we can recycle all ingredients and put them back into the next product.
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3. Regenerative loop – made to regenerate:

Now, let’s say we get everything recycled and we make all of our products and design them so that they can be remade, you have the final challenge, which is: what if things don’t end up going back into the loop? What if they get out of the loop? For that, the ultimate goal, the holy grail is that these materials can return to nature.

The third loop is the regenerative loop or the bionic loop as we’ve called it as well. There, you’re making products out of natural materials or they’re made to biodegrade. Here, you work with partners like Bolt Threads to create new yarns out of protein that can be engineered for specific purposes.

I’ll show you this example here. This is this biofabric tennis dress that we made and launched last year at Wimbledon together with Stella McCartney. Here, you can see that the entire garment is made out of this biofabricated microsilk, as they call it. You’re able to engineer a garment for high performance. You can see all of the different zones built into the dress. It has a beautiful fit. It was worn by one of our top athletes.

A woman wearing a white tennis dress by adidas Stella McCartney. plastic waste, Stella McCartney, adidas, bionic tennis dress, sustainability
With the adidas x Stella McCartney biofabric tennis dress we've created our first prototype that's made to return to nature.
A white adidas by Stella McCartney hoodie hanging on a clothes rail. plastic waste, Stella McCartney, adidas, infinite hoodie, GamePlan A
The Stella McCartney Infinite Hoodie is made from fabrics that are meant to be reused again and again.
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Our ambition to end plastic waste

Going a step further, we have the target to reduce carbon by 30% by 2030 and be carbon neutral by 2050.

If you think of the impact of that, that’s massive because that means completely reengineering our entire business so that we can still grow in terms of profit and financial growth while reducing our impact on the environment.

The thing we try to do with this mission to end plastic waste is make it accessible. It’s something that everybody can do. There’s a lot of things in the world where you feel like your opinion or point of view doesn’t add up. In this case, there’s a physical, measurable impact that you have as a person, and you can change that on a daily basis.

The adidas Sustainability Story – Leading the Change

How adidas is driving innovative sustainable solutions designed to transform our industry and our planet.

Learn more

10 COMMENTS

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by Margarita Stoycheva 03.07.2020
`By 2024, we intend to eliminate virgin plastic and go 100%recycled.` - I think the quote complements well our ambition to be the best sports brand in the world & to change it for better. It also shows that we are not scared to dream big and we stand behind what we believe in!

Shoe size - 38
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Sina Port
Sina Port | Editor Margarita Stoycheva 01.10.2020
Nice one Margarita and I agree. We should never shy away from thinking – and acting – big!
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by Alice Zhou 07.07.2020
Trying to imagine in material level, how difficulty in trackability tracking from Tier 7 to Tier 1, thousands and thousands people's effort, they should be memorize and get award that every effort come to our milestone. Real Number One in sport industry and footwear industry, everyone as adidas member proud of it.
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Sina Port
Sina Port | Editor Alice Zhou 01.10.2020
Alice I agree, the processes that go on behind the scenes are only made available by the genius you don't see often. So proud to have gotten to know many amazing people who work on our milestones!
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by Chiho Bauske 10.07.2020
This is the quite I loved...It’s baked into their DNA as they grow up. For them, there is no choice. You do the right thing. In Hawaii, we have this word, "Pono" meaning righteous, or, doing the right thing...even when no one else is looking. I try to live my life by living pono. Doing what's right in every aspect of my life.
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Sina Port
Sina Port | Editor Chiho Bauske 01.10.2020
Loving this Chiho thank you for sharing something so inspiring from your heritage. I will remember Pono – it's a beautiful concept of such high magnitude. Living intentionally for the right things isn't easy but it's simple.
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Sina Port
Sina Port | Editor Chiho Bauske 01.10.2020
Hi Chiho - update: I've done some research on Hawaii since you introduce the concept of "Pono" to us. The beauty is breath-taking especially rooted in the ancestry and love for nature and innate purpose. It reminded me a lot of the Cherokee tradition and finding what role you are meant to have in life. Thank you again for sharing!
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by Jack .Jeong 30.07.2020
Very impressive for game change of closing loop system for saving earth ..

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Sina Port
Sina Port | Editor Jack .Jeong 01.10.2020
Yes Jack I agree the concept of reducing waste by closing loops is a true game changer!
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by Chris Gibbons 13.10.2020
An excellent article and great to see Adidas doing even more in this area having read other articles also. The made to be remade & regenerate principals being put in to action are really interesting to see how they have been achieved. Being a leader and forcing positive change within the industry sets a benchmark for the trickle down effect across the board showing it can be and how to do it. ✌
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