Beaverton, Oregon – Nike is seeking to reduce the “significant” overall environmental impacts of the rubber, foam and adhesive materials used in it shoes, the company said in its Impact Report 2020 – issued this March.
The global sportswear brand used around 112 kilotonnes* of rubber in fiscal 2020, placing it among the top five materials used by volume: alongside cotton, polyester, corrugate/paper and EVA foam.
Nike said its focus is now on reducing “waste and carbon in the materials and methods of making footwear bottom units, especially around mid-sole foam and outsole rubber.”
Despite reducing material waste and expanding renewable energy, the company missed its five-year carbon-reduction goals to 2020 – in part, due to “shifts to more complex materials and product designs.”
To meet its 2025 targets, Nike is “pulling together with surgical focus on our biggest challenges – and our biggest opportunities: sustainable materials, renewable energy, and energy efficiency.”
Noting that materials account for 70% of the company’s carbon footprint, Nike is “accelerating R&D around sustainable materials and exploring opportunities to bring low-carbon alternatives to market at scale.”
Reviewing sustainability initiatives in 2020, Nike said its European ‘logistics campus’ and China ‘logistics center’ continued to perform at 100% landfill diversion.
In Europe, these efforts were helped by the refurbishment of a 15-year-old Nike Grind facility. The project has increased capacity of the unit, which grinds scrap rubber, foam and other shoe materials into granular recyclate, by over 20% .
In Greater China a new basketball court in Beijing was created using Nike Grind materials from a Chinese distribution centre – representing a total of 45,000 pairs of recycled shoes.
Another Chinese example involved the use of reground shoe-sole rubber in flooring, benches and fixtures in China Nike Sport stores.
In North America, meanwhile, a new ‘grind’ machine at a Nike ‘reverse logistics distribution center’ converted defective and post-consumer footwear back into its material for use in new products.
In fiscal 2020, the unit produced 131 tonnes of rubber, 135 tonnes of foam, and 252 tonnes of textile fluff from end-of-life footwear, said the Nike Impact Report.
On the product front, the company has initiated a ‘move to zero journey’, employing circular design principles in the development of its latest Air Max footwear (lead image).
Billed as delivering Nike’s “most sustainable shoes to date”, the range includes products made with at least 55% recycled-content by weight.
Features include the use of a TPU on the heel clip and toe tip containing about 60% recycled materials, and an outsole incorporating Nike Grind material.
A simplified upper “helps minimise material-waste in the tooling with at least 20% recycled content by weight,” a Nike press release further explained.
*Listed in the Nike Impact Report as 111,498,000kg for fiscal 2020.