Athletic shoes. Sneakers. Cross Trainers. Whatever you prefer to call them... we use a lot of them.
The sneaker industry produces more than 20 billion pairs of sneakers every year, and is expected to be worth as much as $102 billion by 2025. That's a lot of sneakers for 8 billion people, 2-3 pairs for each person on the planet in fact. And despite the supply chain issues related to the pandemic, the sneaker industry is projected to meet the demand.
This mean that planet Earth has a lot more sneakers coming its way.
Which in many ways is unfortunate for planet Earth. The EPA estimates that we generate almost 13 million tons of clothing and footwear waste every year, this amount has grown been growing steadily since 1960. We recycle about 13% of which, a figure that has remained stagnant since the early 2000's.
A more in-depth analysis may reveal that footwear is recycled at a higher rate than clothing, but even if it were slightly better - how much difference would it make? Whether the recycling rate is 13% or 20% or even 50%, we're still landfilling millions of tons of footwear every single year. And the overwhelming majority of shoes are not designed to decompose easily. They take decades, if not centuries to fully break down. So those millions of tons of shoes aren't going away anytime soon.
But what if they don't have to...
Back in the 1990's, Nike recognized the need to change. They started a small program to re-purpose shoes that has become a global vision for circularity and a zero-waste future. It's called Nike Grind.
To date, 130 million pounds of Nike Grind has been recycled into new products and 100% of its footwear manufacturing waste has been diverted from landfill or incineration.
www.nikecirculardesign.com is a fantastic demonstration of how a large corporation can employ circular strategies to reduce their negative impacts on the environment and build a more durable business model. The strategy is based on several principles of the circular economy, some of which include...
Cyclability - "Designing with the end in mind; thinking how a product will be recycled at end of use."
Material Choices - "Selecting low-impact materials that use pre & post consumer recycled feed stock."
Disassembly -"Products that can easily be taken apart; recognize the value of each component."
Refurbishment - "Prolonging the use of a product through repair of component parts or materials."
Circular Packaging - "Packaging made of materials that can be repurposed, recycled, or biodegrade."
Products Made with Recycled Materials
The goal of 360 Living is not to sacrifice, but to enable long-lasting enjoyment of products you value.
The 360 Lifestyle doesn't mean you need to stop wearing sneakers. It just means you need to be more careful about who you buy them from. Nike offers several way to be part of the circular economy.
Purchase products made with Nike Grind Materials
Shop Nike's line of sustainable active wear and footwear
Buy refurbished Nike's, available at select retail locations
Bring your end of life shoes to any Nike store for proper recycling. They'll accept any brand of shoe; but no sandals, dress shoes, boots or shoes with metal in them.
Take advantage of Nike's wealth of information on the circular economy and use it to become a more savvy circular consumer
The transition to a circular footwear and clothing industry will be a gradual change. There is still much work to be done to improve the sustainability of sneakers and our appetite for them. Supporting Nike's efforts to change its ways strengthens and accelerates these improvements.
If we want 360 Living, we need to help huge companies get there. If they do, we all do.