Once a pair of athletic shoes is worn out, most people will either donate or trash them. If you do the latter, your shoes end up in a landfill, where they can sit for hundreds of years.
Adidas may have come up with a biodegradable shoe that’s friendlier to the environment.
Called the Adidas Futurecraft Biofabric, the company’s new shoes can break down in under 36 hours after you add a special enzyme.
The shoes are made with an ultra-strong, lightweight material called Biosteel, produced by biotech company AMSilk. The material, which forms the shoe’s upper, is created using the same proteins that spiders use to make their silk.
Adidas unveiled the shoes at the Biofabricate fabrics conference in late 2016, and plans to start selling them by early 2018.
When the shoes finally roll out, owners will be able to dissolve them (minus the soles) in their sink. All they will need to do is add a small packet of a special enzyme to the uppers, wait 36 hours, and wash the remains down the drain.
Though Adidas says the material is 15% lighter than traditional synthetic fibers, the Futurecraft’s sole is not biodegradable. It’s made from the same TPU plastic foam found in Adidas’ UltraBoost shoes. Nevertheless, the shoe produces less waste compared to normal sneakers (if customers choose to actually break them down).
“Crude oil [which is used to make traditional fibers for shoes] is an exhaustive resources. At some point, we will run out, though we don’t know when,” AMSilk’s CEO, Jens Klein, tells Business Insider. “And either you have to burn them [your shoes], or they stay with us for hundreds of years.”
There’s no word yet on the cost, but Klein says, “There’s going to be a premium price to it, but it will still be affordable to normal consumers.”
AMSilk is also working on other products, including cosmetics made with the same Biosteel material. The two companies have been developing the shoes since 2014, when Klein approached Adidas. The prototype has gone through several iterations since then.