Reebok releases plant-based sneaker as part of sustainable pledge

Reebok, Cotton, Corn, Sustainable, Footwear, Sole, Biodegradable

Rebook’s Cotton + Corn

Reebok has released its first ever biodegradable sneaker made with a cotton top and a bioplastic sole.

The launch is part of the brand’s Cotton + Corn product initiative that aims to reduce the brand’s environmental footprint with biodegradable products. In order to achieve the sustainable innovation, the initiative is investigating materials that grow, choosing to use plants rather than oil-based alternatives.

“Most athletic footwear is made using petroleum to create synthetic rubber and foam cushioning systems,” says Bill McInnis VP, Reebok Future at Reebok. “With 20 billion pairs of shoes made every year, this is not a sustainable way of making footwear.” 

The shoe is also the first in its category to be certified by the United States Department of Agriculture to consist of 75% bio-based content.

The sneaker was created in partnership with the US manufacturer DuPont Tate & Lyle, who developed a petroleum-free and non-toxic material called Susterra Propanediol that is used in the sole, making it 100% biodegradable. Additionally, the top of the sneaker is made out of 100% woven cotton, keeping its natural color as the brand refrained from using any chemical dyes.

To further enhance the sneaker’s sustainability credentials, it comes in a 100% recycled box. 

The Cotton + Corn initiative, announced in April 2017, aims to encourage circularity with biodegradable shoes that can be composted after use, thus serving as part of the soil that will grow materials for the next sneaker range, and so forth.

Speaking at the announcement last year, McInnis outlined the brand’s future product development plans under this initiative, which are split into three phases: “First, with product development we’re using materials that grow and can be replenished, rather than the petroleum-based materials commonly used today,” he says. “Second, when the product hits the market we know our consumers don’t want to sacrifice on how sneakers look and perform.” The final step, says McInnis, is the aforementioned afterlife of the shoe once the wearer is done with it.

The NPC UK Cotton + Corn sneaker is currently available exclusively on Reebok’s website and retails for $95.

Reebok is not the first company to explore alternative materials to plastic however, with direct-to-consumer newcomer Allbirds having recently launched its own sustainable sole material, made from sugarcane.

Meanwhile Reebok’s parent company Adidas has been proactive in its efforts to decrease plastic waste, partnering with the NGO Parley for The Oceans to declare a 2024 moonshot to only use recycled ocean plastics.

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