Apparently people want products that are good for the environment — that’s the takeaway from the Adidas ocean plastic product line.
The clothing brand sold 1 million of its UltraBoost running shoes made from plastic recovered from the oceans last year, selling out of its product line and potentially setting the stage for a much broader release of similar products, according to the CEO Kasper Rorsted.
In doing so, the brand is promoting a new model for sustainable production.
In 2016, Adidas teamed up with the environmental nonprofit Parley for the Oceans to make its supply chain more environmentally sustainable.
The first campaign involved incorporating ocean plastic into limited runs of shoes and other products. Once recovered, the plastic is broken down and spun into fibers that can be used in garments and shoes.
The UltraBoost shoes became the flagship item of the partnership. Each shoe is 95% plastic and is made from 11 plastic bottles.
Since Adidas aspires to eliminate virgin plastic from its supply chain, it seems likely that this partnership could extend to more of the brand’s offerings.
As that happens, the shoes may drop in price and become accessible to more people. Their current retail price is $220 a pair.
Either way, the brand has clearly struck a nerve, indicating that consumers are worried about growing plastic pollution in the world’s oceans and want to do something about it. Scenes of floating plastic mounds clogging ocean and river currents have become commonplace in recent years because of the unsustainable rate of plastic production around the world.
Humans have created 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic since 1950, a weight equivalent to 1 billion elephants.
More than 75% of this plastic has been thrown away, left to disintegrate throughout the global environment. Each year, an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the oceans, which is like emptying a garbage truck of plastic into an ocean every minute.
Adidas shoes make a minimal difference on their own, but they demonstrate that virgin plastic is not essential to consumer products, that a more sustainable model can be developed. As more brands adopt plastic alternatives and pledge to recycle, the scale of plastic waste could come under control.
And for all the brands failing to adapt, they’re getting a nudge from government regulators.
Countries including Taiwan, Scotland, and Kenya have enacted some version of a plastic ban in recent months and years, and cities such as Vancouver and New Delhi have drafted their own bans.
Even more sweeping proposals are underway.