Puma’s Experimental Biodegradable Sneakers Successfully Transformed into Compost

Puma has made significant strides in sustainable footwear with its Re:Suede sneaker project. The sportswear giant tested the biodegradability of these experimental sneakers by inviting individuals in Germany to wear them for six months. The Re:Suede sneakers, made from eco-friendly materials like Zeology tanned suede, TPE outsole, and hemp fibers, were part of a limited batch of 500 pairs created in 2021.

After the testing phase, these sneakers were sent to a specialized industrial composting facility operated by Ortessa Group in the Netherlands. The process involved shredding the sneakers and combining them with other organic waste. They were then placed in a composting tunnel, sprayed with nutrient-rich leaching water, and subjected to natural heating and controlled air circulation.

After about three and a half months, the material small enough to pass through a sieve was utilized as Grade A compost for agriculture, adhering to Dutch standards. The remaining larger materials were returned to the composting tunnel for further breakdown.

Anne-Laure Descours, Puma’s Chief Sourcing Officer, acknowledged that while the Re:Suede sneakers couldn’t be processed under standard industrial composting procedures initially, they ultimately succeeded in becoming compost. Puma is now focused on refining this process for a commercial version of the Re:Suede, set to launch in 2024, and is considering a takeback scheme as part of this initiative.

Puma plans to publish a detailed report on this experiment to share insights with peers and other stakeholders, hoping to encourage similar sustainable initiatives across the industry.

Marthien van Eersel, from Ortessa, noted the learning curve involved in adapting their composting processes to accommodate materials like the Re:Suede’s sole, which required additional pre-processing and time to decompose fully.

This successful experiment is part of Puma’s broader initiative, the ‘Circular Lab,’ which focuses on innovative circularity programs, including the Re:Fibre project for polyester recycling. The initiative represents Puma’s commitment to sustainable innovation in the sportswear industry.

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