Adidas’s newest shoe is a load of garbage—ocean garbage, that is. The sportswear giant has teamed up with Parley for the Oceans, a multidisciplinary band of “creators, thinkers and leaders” who want to make ocean debris a valuable material for the fashion industry, to create the world’s first shoe upper made entirely from reclaimed ocean plastic and illegal deep-sea gillnets.
The prototype offers a “first look” at the kind of consumer-ready ocean-plastic products the partnership has in store, according to Eric Liedtke, head of global brands at Adidas, and Cyrill Gutsch, founder of Parley for the Oceans.
“At Parley for the Oceans, we want to establish the oceans as a fundamental part of the debate around climate change,” Gutsch said. “Our objective is to boost public awareness and to inspire new collaborations that can contribute to protect and preserve the oceans. We are extremely proud that Adidas is joining us in this mission and is putting its creative force behind this partnership to show that it is possible to turn ocean plastic into something cool.”
Amassing the materials used in the sample wasn’t easy, however. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a Parley partner, retrieved the nets after spending 110 days tracking an illegal poaching vessel to the coast of West Africa. For their trouble, the crew recovered 72 kilometers of gillnettig, or nearly 45 miles worth.
Future materials aren’t likely to be as dramatic, however. Liedtke said they’ll turn to easier-to-retrieve sources like fishing nets and beach-combed litter, at least until technology allows for the capture of microplastics and other, more-elusive components.
Still, Liedtke called the shoe a “big, bold step” in the fight to protect the planet’s oceans.
“We are incredibly excited to join Parley for the Oceans as they bring the cause of the oceans to the attention of the United Nations,” Liedtke said. “Adidas has long been a leader in sustainability, but this partnership allows us to tap into new areas and create innovative materials and products for our athletes. We invite everyone to join us on this journey to clean up the oceans.”