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Adidas's creative solution to plastic pollution

Encouraging awareness through collaboration and creative thinking are central to solving fashion’s sustainability crisis, Adidas told Drapers Sustainable Fashion 2019.

Matthias Amm, senior global category director running marketing footwear at Adidas, told the conference that the sportwear giant was seeking to raise awareness and drive action about the issue of plastic pollution. Under its partnership with environmental collective Parley for the Oceans, Adidas creates clothing and footwear with materials made from recycled ocean plastic waste. 

“[Parley] are creative thinkers and collaborators, finding ways out of the problem of plastic pollution,” explained Amm.

Amm explained Parley’s approach to sustainability: AIR – avoid, intercept, redesign – which Adidas has also adopted. It avoids single use plastics at all offices and factories; it intercepts plastics in the ocean and reuses them in products; and it redesigns products to include fewer plastics in the future.

Amm noted that by 2024, Adidas is seeking to remove virgin polyester from all newly produced clothing and footwear.

He stressed that collaboration was key to driving change, and as a result of its partnership with Parley, Adidas changed the production process across its footwear supply chain.

“The innovation triggered thoughts on how we made all our shoes,” he said.

In addition to the Parley partnership, Adidas is working on products made from natural materials and other recycled fabrics. Last year the brand launched a shoe made from a material derived from spider silk.

While plastic pollution is one key focus for the business, Adidas is also focusing on moving towards closed-loop production, and has introduced shoe-recycling pilots in cities including London.

With Parley, Amm explained that creating a desirable product was key to driving awareness with consumers and therefore driving changes in attitudes in the long term: “We found a creative way to turn something bad – illegal, waste fishing nets – into something good: the Parley shoes.”

“It’s a serious problem,” he said, highlighting that 8 million tonnes of single-use plastic waste will end up in the oceans this year. “But with creativity we can find ways out of this.”

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