This project aims to see if the sportswear brand can create and scale a version of its most popular model, the SUEDE, that is biodegradable. The experiment requires participants to wear their RE:SUEDE shoe for half a year, then send the pairs back to PUMA who will relay the sneakers to industrial composting experts in The Netherlands. Here, they’ll check to see if the shoes can biodegrade within a controlled, industrial setting.
“We are excited that we received many times more requests for the RE:SUEDE experiment than we had pairs available, which shows that there is a large interest in sustainability topics,” said Heiko Desens, Global Creative Director at PUMA. “As part of the experiment, we will also gather feedback from participants about the comfort and durability of the sneakers, which will help us design future versions of the shoe, if the experiment is successful.”
The new version of PUMA’s bestseller does not use leather alternatives but it is made with Zeology tanned suede, a sustainable alternative to existing tanning agents that provides the suede with superior grain tightness, physical leather properties, lightfastness and heat-resistance. Besides this innovative suede the shoe also uses biodegradable thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) and hemp fibers. When compared to other biodegradable materials these not only hit the mark but were also found to be more comfortable for those wearing the shoe.
Testing a product in such a way is a first for PUMA’s “Circular Lab,” an innovation hub that joins PUMA’s sustainability and design experts on such programs. The brand has also recently announced the RE:Jersey project, where a cutting edge garment-to-garment recycling process is being piloted, also by “Circular Lab.”
While the sneakers aren’t out in stores yet, if this trial proves to be a success then you can probably expect to see them hit the shelves in the future.