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Puma pilots testing for biodegradable version of iconic SUEDE sneaker

Jeremy Lim
04 November 2021

Sports company Puma is doubling down on circularity with the launch of a pilot experiment to tackle the ‘after life’ of its products, beginning from its iconic SUEDE sneaker.

As part of Puma's RE:SUEDE experiment, the German company has developed an experimental version of its most iconic sneaker, using more sustainable materials such as Zeology tanned suede, biodegradable TPE and hemp fibres.

Launching in January 2022, the pilot offers 500 selected participants in Germany to wear the RE:SUEDEs for six months to test out the durability of a product using biodegradable materials in real life, before sending them back to Puma. The sneakers will then go through an industrial biodegradation process at Valor Compostering B.V., a family-run business of waste specialists in the Netherlands. The company will assess the biodegradable process and unpick essential research and development for the future of sustainable shoe consumption.

The RE:SUEDE experiment is the first circular programme to launch under PUMA’s "Circular Lab", a new innovation hub, which is led by PUMA’s sustainability and design experts who work to develop the future of the company’s circularity programmes.

In 2012, Puma launched the brand's first "Cradle to Cradle Certified" collection of footwear, apparel and accessories, which are entirely biodegradable or recyclable. The InCycle collection was discontinued three years later due to low demand.

The company said in a statement that PUMA’s innovation department has worked to address the technological limitations of the InCycle collection in order to apply such learnings into the RE:SUEDE experiment. The improvements include the use of new, innovative materials such as Zeology suede, which is made using a more sustainable tanning process and ensures better comfort for the wearer, when compared to other biodegradable materials evaluated at PUMA. The outsole of the RE:SUEDE has also been improved to ensure optimal wear.

Heiko Desens, Puma’s Creative Director said: "In 2012, our circular ambition was bold but the technology wasn’t quite there. As they say, with every challenge there’s an opportunity - and we’ve continued to push ourselves to do better by applying our strengths as well as acknowledging and improving on our weaknesses.

"We hope that progress made during the RE:SUEDE experiment: ‘No Time For Waste‘ will help us continue to raise the bar in circularity testing – enabling our consumers to make better fashion choices in the future, so their sneakers can go ‘from Suede to Soil’, without compromising on product style or durability during ownership."

The company aims to share the results and insights gained from this experiment within the industry to achieve an even bigger impact in order to address the challenge of waste management in the footwear industry.

Circularity is one of the pillars of Pumas’s Forever Better sustainability strategy. By 2025, the company aims to reduce waste by increasing the level of recycled polyester in its products to 75%, setting up product take back schemes in its major markets and developing recycled material options for leather, rubber, cotton and polyurethane.

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