The sports company PUMA has come up with an experiment version of its most famous sneakers, called the SUEDE to determine if a product can be made that is biodegradable. In doing this, PUMA aims to meet the increasing need for sustainable products that will lead to an improved future. The RE:SUEDE, which is based on the most advanced technology currently available and will be constructed from more sustainable materials like Zeology suede that has been tanned hemp, biodegradable TPE, and biodegradable fibres.
This RE:SUEDE experiment is a test in circularity. It is also the most definitive expression of the new generation SUEDE with the aim to establish new norms for sustainable development for this iconic footwear. The idea behind the project is to tackle the problem of waste management within the footwear industry RE:SUEDE will enable PUMA to assume more responsibility in dealing with the “afterlife” for its footwear. The pilot is scheduled to launch in 2022 and offer 500 participants from Germany the opportunity to be part of PUMA in its journey towards circularity.
In collaboration with PUMA Participants will wear RE:SUEDEs for six months in order to evaluate the durability of a brand made of biodegradable materials in real-world conditions and then return them to PUMA via a return infrastructure that is designed to take the shoes into the next stage of the test. The shoes will be put through an industrial process of biodegradation in an environment controlled by Valor Compostering B.V., which is owned by Ortessa Groep B.V., an established family-owned business that is made up of specialists in waste management in the Netherlands. The aim of this phase is to determine whether compost grade A is able to be made for use in agriculture. The results will help PUMA determine the biodegradable method and identify the most important research and development to ensure the future of sustainable shoe usage.
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The RE:SUEDE program will be the very first circular program to be launched under the PUMA’s “Circular Lab” which is a brand-new innovation hub that is helmed by the sustainability department of PUMA designers and sustainability experts who help determine the future direction for the circularity initiatives.
This pilot is a reenergized fresh and refreshed circularity project as a result of PUMA’s investigation into the field in 2012 that saw the company’s first attempt to develop a biodegradable sneaker in their InCycle collection. However, after four seasons the sneakers were withdrawn because of the low demand and the necessity for more study and improvement.
Since 2012, PUMA’s Innovation department has been working on addressing the technical shortcomings in the InCycle collection, in order to incorporate these lessons to the RE:SUEDE study. The improvements include the use of novel, ingenuous materials, such as Zeology suede which is created using a eco-friendly tanning process, and provides greater comfort for wearers in comparison with other biodegradable materials tested at PUMA. The outersole of the RE:SUEDE is also upgraded to ensure maximum wear.
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“In 2012 our circular goals were big, but the technology was not enough. Like they say”with every challenge, there’s an opportunity. We’ve been pushing ourselves to improve by using our strengths and acknowledging and enhancing our weak points,” said Heiko Desens, the Creative Director of PUMA. “We are hopeful that the improvements made through the RE:SUEDE project: ‘No Time For Waste’ will help us keep pushing the envelope on circularity testing and enabling our customers to make better choices for their style in the near future, so that their shoes can be ‘from Soil to Suede’ without sacrificing appearance or durability throughout their time of the course of.”
Concerning the collaboration together with Ortessa, Desens further comments: “We’re excited to partner with the experts from Ortessa who share our enthusiasm for finding innovative and practical solutions for the industry’s waste problems. Their knowledge is essential in helping us understand more about the post-life of the RE:SUEDE, which means we can keep moving forward with our research into the circular nature of our business.”
Rob Meulendijks, CEO of Ortessa says: “As a family owned company that is a major player in the industry of waste We are proud of coming up with innovative ideas and new ideas to solve real-world waste issues in a unique and more open manner. There’s a lot more we could do to improve waste management, however doing it on your own can be difficult for any company. We are very pleased to collaborate with PUMA for this unique project. We will use our vast expertise and knowledge of waste employing tried and tested techniques, to test the biodegradability of our next and next-generation SUEDE.”
PUMA hopes to share the findings and knowledge gained from this research within the industry to create more impact in solving the issue of managing waste within the overall footwear industry. Circularity is among the main pillars of the PUMA’s FOREVER better sustainability plan. In 2025 PUMA will aim to cut down on waste by increasing the amount of recycled polyester used in its products up to 75%, establishing programs to take back products in the major markets, and experimenting with recycled materials for rubber, leather, polyurethane and cotton.