From trash to treasure: Adidas designs shoes made of ocean garbage

To raise awareness about ocean pollution, Adidas has designed a pair of sneakers made from recycled plastic ocean waste.

Michelle Starr Science editor
Michelle Starr is CNET's science editor, and she hopes to get you as enthralled with the wonders of the universe as she is. When she's not daydreaming about flying through space, she's daydreaming about bats.
Michelle Starr
2 min read

The sneakers are a concept foreshadowing products to come. Adidas

To call ocean pollution a big problem is an understatement. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, in 2006, there were 46,000 pieces of floating plastic for every square mile of ocean. Plastic debris is responsible for the deaths of over a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals every year. And that's just what we know about -- the impact of plastic debris on marine life is mostly unknown.

To help raise awareness for these issues, German sportswear brand Adidas has joined forces with Parley for the Oceans, an organisation formed in 2013 dedicated to undertaking projects to protect and conserve the Earth's oceans.

At a Parley for the Oceans event hosted by the United Nations last week, Adidas' Eric Liedtke and Parley for the Oceans founder Cyrill Gutsch revealed a new collaborative project: a prototype shoe with an upper made entirely from recycled ocean waste and illegal deep-sea gillnets.

These gillnets were retrieved by Parley for the Oceans partner Sea Shepherd, which spent 110 days tracking an illegal poaching vessel, finally catching it off the coast of West Africa.

"At Parley for the Oceans, we want to establish the oceans as a fundamental part of the debate around climate change. Our objective is to boost public awareness and to inspire new collaborations that can contribute to protect and preserve the oceans," Gutsch said in a statement.

"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."

The sole of the sneaker is made from sustainable materials, the upper from recycled ocean waste. Adidas

In April, when it announced its partnership with Parley for the Oceans, Adidas also announced that it would be phasing out the use of plastic bags in all Adidas retail stores.

"We are incredibly excited to join Parley for the Oceans as they bring the cause of the oceans to the attention of the United Nations," said Liedtke. "Adidas has long been a leader in sustainability, but this partnership allows us to tap into new areas and create innovative materials and products for our athletes. We invite everyone to join us on this journey to clean up the oceans."

The concept shoe, which does not have a name, may not hit the shelves in its current form, but something very much like it is planned. It's an illustrative concept for a line of consumer-ready products made from ocean plastics that Adidas and Parley for the Oceans will be releasing later this year.