Nike awards designers reimagining footwear waste

Nike Grind

Nike Innovation Challenge

Nike is pushing forward with its circularity goals through a challenge that invited designers, engineers and scientists around the globe to come up with creative products using footwear material waste.

The Nike Circular Innovation contest posed two challenges to applicants: creating new products using materials from the Nike Grind program, which is the company’s initiative to collect post-consumer athletic shoes by any brand; and to develop new technologies to advance footwear recycling.

The challenge, which started in February, received over 600 applications from 58 countries. The sportswear brand eventually narrowed the selection down to 35 finalists, who were tasked with creating a product using rubber, foam, fiber, leather and textile blends recovered from its manufacturing process. In the end, five groups won the Design with Grind challenge, and one group was awarded for its Material Recovery Fix.

What the design finalists came up with included everything from furniture to yoga and street safety, and even a vacuum mattress for people suffering from neurodevelopmental disorders. The brand hasn’t yet disclosed whether it will further develop the ideas with each of them.

As for the materials challenge, the brand awarded Florida-based plastic experts SumaRec, which identified two new phases that could be added to Nike’s material recovery process: an additional step which divides materials based on their weight, and an extra material-grinding step.

At this year’s Copenhagen Fashion Summit in June, Nike COO Eric Sprunk said that at present, 75% of Nike’s products already contain some recyclable materials. “Our rule is: there is no innovation without sustainability.” He further announced the introduction of a new ‘supermaterial’  from recyclable natural leather fiber. The textile, called Flyleather, will be used in popular styles such as the Air Jordan and Air Max.

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