Adidas Puts Shoe Industry On Notice: Ocean Trash is Better Than Leather

Adidas ocean trash shoe

Taking the athletic shoe industry to a much-needed new level for both performance and ethics, Adidas has created a prototype for a sustainable shoe that’s made almost exclusively from recycled ocean trash.

Adidas, which worked with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to source the trash during a 110-day expedition tracking illegal poachers, has launched the shoe in a partnership with Parley for the Oceans, a nonprofit organization working towards ending ocean pollution around the planet.

“We are extremely proud that Adidas is joining us in this mission and is putting its creative force behind this partnership to show that it is possible to turn ocean plastic into something cool,” Parley founder Cyrill Gutsch said to The Huffington Post.

According to the German company, Adidas’s new shoe’s upper is made entirely from illegal deep-sea gillnets and other ocean waste (there’s plenty of it to harvest). The shoe’s base comes by way of a sustainable cushioning material. “The concept shoe illustrates the joint commitment of Adidas and Parley for the Oceans and offers a first look at the kind of consumer-ready ocean plastic products that will be revealed later this year,” Adidas said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for Adidas told The Huffington Post the shoe is not currently for sale, and the company is unsure whether it would be in the near future—but that’s not exactly the point of the shoe. “This is not a plan, this is an action,” she said. “We did this to show what we are capable of doing when we all put our heads together.”

Ocean trash is an increasingly severe problem impacting every corner of the world’s oceans. All marine life is affected by ocean pollution, as are the communities who rely on ocean fish as part of their diet. Research continues to show levels of plastic-based toxins in numerous fish species.

Countless pairs of shoes could be produced from ocean trash (and certainly other types of trash as well), which is not only a very good way to help remove the debris from the waters, but also takes aim at another highly toxic industry: leather.

The leather shoe industry is massive. It’s a huge source of pollution, from the resources used to raise the animals to the methane they produce and the dozens of chemical processes involved in tanning, dying, and processing animal skins into leather—not to mention the immense animal suffering.

If Adidas is capable of mass-producing shoes from ocean trash, it’s proof any shoe manufacturer can—and should—start doing it now, for the oceans, for the cows, for the planet, and for our (guilt-free) feet.

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Image via Adidas

Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.