Adidas is planning to expand its use of recycled plastics well beyond its flagship shoes. The sportswear maker has promised to only use recycled polyester in its shoes and clothing by 2024. While the company’s Eric Liedtke didn’t provide a detailed roadmap in a chat with the Financial Times, he characterized it as a transition that will see Adidas take “right-sized bites” out of its budget to make the switch without hurting its profit margins. It’s no mean feat — about half of Adidas’ material is polyester right now, Liedtke said, so an “overnight” changeover isn’t in the cards.
A lot of that cost likely has to do with economies of scale. Recycled polyester can carry up to a 20 percent premium over the freshly-made variety, and it could prove daunting to process the material in Adidas-level quantities. The company is likely betting that refined techniques will bring the costs down over time.
The company wouldn’t be on the vanguard of embracing recycled plastics. Stella McCartney’s fashion label has vowed to stop using brand new nylon by 2020, as an example. It’d be uncharted territory for a company the size of Adidas, however, and that could have a significant effect on the viability of recycled plastics across the apparel industry. There’s certainly an impetus to make the transition. Eco-conscious design is good for the public image, of course, but it’s also crucial when ocean plastic is a serious problem that will only get worse if usage habits don’t change.