Reebok is making footwear with corn so it can recycle old pairs into new shoes

Even if you are not a sneakerhead with a closet overflowing with sneakers, chances are you have thrown out a few. Soon, those sneakers you throw away could be used to make more. On Tuesday, Reebok announced an initiative called “Cotton and Corn,” involving footwear made from organic materials the company plans to recycle to make more footwear.

Reebok partnered with DuPont Tate and Lyle BioProducts to use the company’s Susterra propanediol for the sole of the Cotton and Corn shoes. Susterra propanediol is a substance that is free of petroleum and made from field corn.

Once you are done with those Cotton and Corn shoes, Reebok wants them back so it can make more. “Ultimately, our goal is to create a broad selection of bio-based footwear that can be composted after use,” Bill McInnis, the head of Reebok Future, said in a press release. “We’ll then use that compost as part of the soil to grow the materials for the next range of shoes.”

Footwear giants like Nike and Reebok have been using organic materials and recycling shoes to address waste issues for more than 20 years. Nike launched its Reuse-A-Shoe program in 1990, encouraging customers to bring in old running shoes for Nike’s recycling efforts. A few years later, Nike began its Nike Grind program where recycled shoes are ground into a material used to make surfaces. The rubber from the outsole, foam from the midsole, and fabric from the upper are ground into the Nike Grind material. That material has since been used to make a number of surfaces, including outdoor courts, running tracks, and indoor wood.

Adidas sold 7,000 pairs of sneakers it made from 3D-printed recycled ocean waste last year. The shoe’s upper was mostly made from plastic thrown away in the ocean.

The Cotton and Corn initiative is the latest venture from Reebok Future, the footwear brand’s innovation department that experiments with new technologies such as 3D printing. Reebok plans to release the Cotton and Corn footwear to the masses later in 2017, but a definitive release date has yet to be announced.

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