EP Monthly

EP Insight, June 2024 | adidas: Recycled Polyester

Athletic apparel and footwear company adidas is addressing the environmental challenges associated with the use of virgin polyester by replacing it with recycled polyester in their products.

Polyester is adidas’ most widely used material, and while it is valued for its versatility and performance benefits, it is also one of the worst fabrics for the planet. Derived from petroleum, polyester is a non-biodegradable, non-renewable resource, whose carbon-heavy manufacturing process is responsible for 40% of fashion’s emissions.[1] In 2017, adidas set an ambitious goal to replace all virgin polyester with recycled polyester in their products by the end of 2024.[2] Their commitment has yielded impressive results, achieving 99% recycled polyester usage in 2023.[3]

Recycled polyester, or recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET), is produced from breaking down used plastic bottles into yarn. The yarn is then twisted and stretched into long fibers, and woven or knitted together to form polyester fabric. This recycled fabric significantly reduces environmental impact, cutting energy use by 50%, CO2 emissions by 75%, and water consumption by 90%.[4] Moreover, each kilogram of recycled polyester produced equates to saving 60 plastic bottles from ending up as waste.[5]

adidas’ recycled polyester commitment includes a partnership with Parley for the Oceans, an organization focused on ocean conservation. Through the Parley Ocean Plastic initiative, adidas incorporates rPET yarn made partly from plastic waste intercepted from beaches and coastal communities, helping protect marine ecosystems, and enhancing the circularity of their materials.

As adidas continues to innovate and collaborate, their efforts serve as a model of corporate responsibility and environmental stewardship in the global marketplace. Their commitment to replace all virgin polyester with recycled polyester sets a standard for the sportswear sector, inspires industry-wide adoption of environmentally responsible manufacturing methods, and drives positive change toward a more sustainable future.

If you are interested in reading more about corporate work to lower negative environmental impacts, please see other EP Insights from Terra Alpha here.

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