In an effort to bolster its commitment to sustainability, Adidas announced on Monday that it would begin developing materials out of plastic ocean waste to ultimately use in its products.
In a press release, the iconic clothing corporation said it’s teaming up with the Parley for the Oceans, a group of artists, scientists, musicians, and designers dedicated to cleaning up the world’s oceans. Together, they plan on developing fibers made from plastic ocean waste that can be used in the manufacturing of clothing and potentially in shoes.
In the short term, Adidas also pledged to phase out plastic bags at its 2,900 stores worldwide.
“By partnering with Parley for the Oceans, we’re contributing to a great environmental cause and co-creating new fabrics from ocean plastic waste that we’ll gradually and constantly integrate into our product,” Maria Culp, a spokesperson for Adidas, told ThinkProgress.
According to a recent study in Science, between 5 and 13 million metric tons of plastic waste ended up in oceans in 2010 alone, an amount that’s expected to increase in the coming decades if waste disposal techniques aren’t improved. Another study estimated that the ocean has about 600 pieces of plastic in it per every person living on earth.
Each ocean has its own massive whirlpool of plastic debris, but those patches only account for 1 percent of the plastic thought to be in oceans. No one really knows what happens to the other 99 percent — it might wash back to shore, it might breakdown into very small bits, or it might be eaten by fish and enter into the food chain.
Adidas isn’t the first company to look to marine plastic waste for innovative manufacturing materials. Last year, G-Star Raw denim partnered with producer and musician Pharrell Williams to debut a line of jeans made with fabric spun from recycled ocean debris. Williams is the creative director of Bionic Yarn, which creates fabric primarily using plastic bottles.
Bionic Yarn has also partnered with Parley to create the Vortex Project, whose mission is to retrieve marine plastic and transform it into yarn that can be used in manufacturing garments for the fashion industry.
The partnership is just one part of Adidas’ growing commitment to sustainability, which it outlined in its 2014 Sustainability Progress Report. The company also sourced 30 percent of its cotton from sustainable sources in 2014, exceeding the goal of 25 percent that it had set for itself. Ultimately, Adidas says it wants to source 40 percent of its cotton from sustainable sources by the end of the year, with the goal of transitioning to 100 percent sustainable cotton by 2018.
2014 also marked the opening of Adidas’ first “green” retail store in Nuremberg, Germany. The store is run by an intelligent control system that automatically optimizes the store’s heating, cooling, and ventilation. It’s also completely outfitted with LED lights, and other energy-efficient devices meant to reduce the store’s overall carbon footprint.
As environmental groups like Greenpeace pressure fashion companies to become more sustainable in both sourcing and production, Adidas isn’t the only company to shift its attention toward sustainability. According to Reuters, the Swedish retailer H&M — which is the leading user of organic cotton in the world — has committed to tripling the amount of products made from recycled fibers by the end of 2015. In late March, Eileen Fisher also announced plans to begin sourcing only organic linen and cotton in the hopes of becoming 100 percent sustainable by 2020.