PUMA and Ortessa launch pilot of biodegradable RE:SUEDE sneaker

Sports company PUMA has developed an experimental version of its most iconic sneaker, the SUEDE, to test and make it biodegradable. In doing so, PUMA aims to meet the growing demand for sustainable products for a better future. Using the latest technology available today, the RE:SUEDE will be made from more sustainable materials such as Zeology tanned suede, biodegradable TPE and hemp fibers.

The RE:SUEDE experiment is a pilot in circularity and the ultimate expression of the next generation of SUEDE - with the ambition to set new standards in sustainability for the iconic shoe. Designed to address the challenge of waste management in the footwear industry, the RE:SUEDE experiment will allow PUMA to take more responsibility when it comes to addressing the 'after life' of its products. The pilot will start in January 2022 and offer 500 selected participants in Germany the opportunity to accompany PUMA on its experimental journey to circularity.

In partnership with PUMA, participants will wear their RE:SUEDES for six months to test the sustainability of a product with biodegradable materials in real life, before returning them to PUMA through a take-back infrastructure designed to move the products to the next. step in the experiment. The sneakers are then subjected to an industrial biodegradation process in a controlled environment at Valor Compostering B.V., owned by Ortessa Groep B.V., a family-owned company of waste specialists in the Netherlands. The purpose of this step is to determine whether Grade A compost can be produced for use in agriculture. The findings will help PUMA assess the biodegradable process and unravel essential research and development for the future of sustainable shoe consumption.

The RE:SUEDE experiment is the first circular program launched under PUMA's "Circular Lab" - a new innovation hub led by PUMA's sustainability and design experts working to develop the future of the company's circularity programs.

This pilot is a renewed, refreshed experiment in circularity, following PUMA's exploration into the space in 2012, where the brand first attempted to create a biodegradable sneaker as part of its InCycle collection. But after four seasons, the sneaker was discontinued due to low demand and the need for further research and development.

Since 2012, PUMA's innovation department has worked to address the technological limitations of the InCycle collection to apply such lessons in the RE:SUEDE experiment. Improvements include the use of new, innovative materials such as Zeology suede, which is made using a more sustainable tanning process and provides greater comfort for the wearer compared to other biodegradable materials evaluated by PUMA. The outsole of the RE:SUEDE has also been improved to ensure optimal wear.

"In 2012, our circular ambition was bold, but the technology wasn't quite there yet. As they say, with every challenge there is an opportunity - and we have continued to push ourselves to do better by applying our strengths and acknowledging and improving our weaknesses," said Heiko Desens, PUMA's Creative Director. "We hope that the progress made during the RE:SUEDE Experiment: 'No Time For Waste' will help us raise the bar on circularity testing - enabling our consumers to make better fashion choices in the future, making their sneakers 'from Suede to Soil', without compromising on product style or sustainability during ownership."

On the partnership with Ortessa, Desens goes on to say, "We are excited to work with the experts at Ortessa, who share our passion in developing proactive and pragmatic solutions to the industry's waste problem. Their expertise is fundamental in helping us learn more about the afterlife of the RE:SUEDE so we can move forward with our exploration of circularity."

Rob Meulendijks, CEO of Ortessa said, "As a family-owned company in the waste industry, we pride ourselves on creating surprising innovations and fresh concepts to tackle real waste problems in a different and open way. We can all do much more to address waste management, but taking on that challenge alone can be a difficult task for any brand. We are excited to partner with PUMA on this special project, where we can apply our deep knowledge and insights on waste, use proven and verified methods, to assess the biodegradability of the future next-generation Suede."

PUMA intends to share the results and insights gained from this experiment within the industry to achieve an even greater impact when it comes to addressing the challenge of waste management in the footwear industry at large. Circularity is one of the pillars of PUMA's FOREVER BETTER sustainability strategy. By 2025, PUMA aims to increasingly reduce waste increase the level of recycled polyester in its products to 75%, establish product take-back programs in its key markets and develop recycled material options for leather, rubber, cotton and polyurethane.

Since its first iteration in 1968, the PUMA SUEDE has been at the forefront of cultural turning points, transcending style and trends. With the RE:SUEDE, PUMA aims to offer its consumers a stylish and more sustainable choice, while showcasing the latest technologies.

A great initiative to move up the chain together with producer and processor. Together they discuss the challenges of biodegradable products and look for solutions. In short, a nice practical example that fits in with our vision of 'Open About Waste'.