Adidas has pledged to use only recycled plastics, including polyester, by 2024.
The sportswear company plans to stop using virgin, or newly manufactured, plastic in its clothing, offices, retail outlets, warehouses and distribution centers beginning this year, according to Adidas spokeswoman Maria Culp.
Polyester makes up about 50 percent of the material in Adidas’ products, Eric Liedtke, head of Adidas’ global brands, told the Financial Times.
“We aim to use 100% recycled polyester in every product and on every application where a solution exists by 2024,” Culp wrote in a statement to HuffPost.
The inexpensive material is made from plastic and is popular among athleisure and sports clothing because it has sweat-resistant properties.
The switch will save an estimated 40 tons of plastic annually, according to the statement.
Adidas’ spring and summer 2019 clothing line will contain about 41 percent recycled polyester, Culp said.
In 2016, Adidas collaborated with environmental group Parley for the Oceans to mass-produce shoes made from recycled water bottles. The company reported selling 1 million pairs of the eco-friendly shoe last year. Adidas switched from using plastic bags to paper bags in its retail stores in 2016.
In the same year, Adidas unveiled a shoe made of biodegradable fabric that was meant to disintegrate within hours of its disposal. However, the shoe’s foam sole meant that a substantial chunk of it would still end up in the landfill.
Kirsten Brodde, project lead of “Detox my Fashion” at Greenpeace, said that while Adidas’ announcement is an improvement, the fashion industry needs to look at the larger picture of sustainability.
“To truly be sustainable, companies like Adidas need to produce less, more durable and repairable products,” Brodde said. “To solve our plastic waste problem, we need to stop producing so much plastic from the start, and in order to make fashion more sustainable, rethink a fashion system that hypes new trends every week.”
Adidas, the second-largest sportswear company in the world, is the latest company to announce plans to reduce plastic usage. Starbucks and American Airlines both announced last week that they planned to cut down on plastic straws.
Plastic, which is typically used for single-use products such as straws or cups, has negative environmental impacts. Because the synthetic material does not biodegrade, plastic waste can remain in oceans and landfills for hundreds of years. Plastic debris attracts other chemicals and is often harmful to wildlife and can contaminate groundwater.
Although companies such as Starbucks have been lauded as environmentally conscious for promising to replace plastic straws with compostable plastic or paper straws, there is still a lot of work to be done. Compostable plastic is not biodegradable and does not break down any faster than normal plastic. Compostable plastic creates a smaller carbon footprint, but it needs to be disposed of in a proper commercial composter.
This article has been updated with comment from Maria Culp and Kirsten Brodde.