PUMA to trial biodegradable suede shoe
Material durability will be assessed in a six-month wear programme.
To meet the growing demand for sustainable products, sporting goods producer PUMA has announced the development of an experimental version of its ‘SUEDE’ sneaker, with the intention of making the product biodegradable. Called the ‘RE:SUEDE’, the shoe is said to make use of the latest technology available, and will be manufactured from more sustainable materials such as an innovative tanned suede, biodegradable thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) and fibres made from hemp.
According to the company, The RE:SUEDE trial will be used to set new standards of sustainability for this popular shoe. Designed to help address the challenge of waste management in the footwear industry, this research is intended to allow PUMA to take more responsibility when it comes to tackling the ‘after life’ of its products. The pilot scheme – which launches in January 2022 – will offer 500 selected participants in Germany the chance to join the company on what it calls ‘an experimental journey towards circularity’.
RE:SUEDEs will be worn for six months to test out the durability of a product using biodegradable materials in real life. They will then be sent back to PUMA and subjected to an industrial biodegradation process in a controlled environment at a waste specialist in the Netherlands. The goal of this step is to determine if the shoes can be used to produce ‘grade A’ compost, which can be legally used as fertiliser on farms and vegetable gardens, as well as sold to homeowners as compost or fertiliser. The findings will help PUMA to assess the biodegrading process and will benefit research and development for the future of sustainable shoe consumption.
The RE:SUEDE project is the first circular programme to launch under PUMA’s ‘Circular Lab’ scheme – a new innovation hub in which the company’s sustainability and design experts work to develop the future of its ongoing circularity programmes.
This pilot follows PUMA’s 2012 attempt to create a biodegradable sneaker as part of its ‘InCycle’ collection. After four seasons, however, the shoe was discontinued as a result of low demand and the need for further research and development. Since then, the company’s innovation team has been working to address the technological limitations of the InCycle collection in order to apply what was learned into the RE:SUEDE programme. Improvements include the use of ‘Zeology’ suede, which PUMA states is made with a more sustainable process and is able to provide better comfort for the wearer when compared to other biodegradable materials it has evaluated. The outsole of the RE:SUEDE is also said to have been improved to ensure optimal wear.
This article was originally published on page 39 of the December 2021 issue of SATRA Bulletin.