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Upcycling means to create something new and improved from something you no longer need. Athletic shoe and apparel manufacturer Adidas, in partnership with the non-profit network Parley for the Oceans, has found a way to upcycle a portion of the tons of ocean plastic floating in our seas. As the saying goes, one person’s trash is another’s treasure.

Run With It

new Adidas shoe made of ocean plastic
Ultraboost Parley Running Shoes by Adidas are made with recycled ocean plastic. Source: Adidas

Last year, Adidas sold 1 million pairs of running shoes made from recycled/upcycled ocean plastic in partnership with Parley.  At $100-200 per pair of shoes, Adidas seems to have found success in making a difference for our oceans and striking a chord with consumers. In fact, the company hopes to make all of its shoes from recycled plastic by 2020 and has already introduced a new clothing line made of recycled plastic as well.

A Growing Problem

Parley’s mission is to clean up shorelines and oceans by collecting plastic debris and recycling it to reduce the use of virgin plastics. The organization also works to reduce overall plastic use and educate others on the problem of ocean plastic.

It is estimated that more than 4 million metric tons of plastic wash into oceans each year, worldwide. This debris then either washes ashore elsewhere or collects in one of five slow-moving whirlpools or “patches” created by ocean currents.  This is a problem for our oceans, marine life, food supply and the overall environment.

The world’s ocean currents create five slow whirlpools or gyres in which plastic and debris collect. Source: The Ocean Cleanup

A recent study by The Ocean Cleanup estimates that 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic debris have accumulated in the largest of these patches, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, is twice the size of Texas. It floats between Hawaii and California.

Ocean Cleanup

The originator of the study, The Ocean Cleanup, is another non-profit organization working to solve the problem of ocean plastic. This team expects to launch its first cleanup system inside the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This is a passive collection system that will move with the currents, just like the plastic it is intended to capture.

collection system in ocean
The Ocean Cleanup’s collection system. Source: The Ocean Cleanup

By deploying a fleet of these systems, The Ocean Cleanup estimates that it will be able to remove half of the debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within 5 years.  The collected, concentrated plastic will be brought back to shore for recycling, then sold to manufacturers to continue funding cleanups.

How You Can Help

The amount of plastic and trash floating in our oceans is growing and organizations like Parley, Adidas, The Ocean Cleanup and others are working to help solve the problem and engage others in being part of the solution.

Adidas is sponsoring Run for the Oceans, which starts on June 8 – World Oceans Day.  For every kilometer that is run as part of Run for the Oceans, Adidas will donate one dollar to the Parley Ocean Plastic Program, up to $1 Million. Sign up today to join the cause and run for the oceans.

What else can you do to help solve this growing problem of ocean plastic?

The Innovation, Inspiration & Ideas blog was created to share stories and profiles of companies, products and individuals creating innovation in business through inventive material solutions. For more information on why we launched it, read our blog introduction.
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About the Author

Allison Stroud

Allison Stroud is the managing editor of the Innovation, Inspiration & Ideas blog. A 13-year veteran of Nomaco, Allison specializes in marketing communications and serves as the company historian.

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