Turning RE:SUEDE sneakers made with Zeology Suede into compost

Sports company PUMA showed that it can successfully turn an experimental version of its classic SUEDE sneaker into compost under certain tailor-made industrial conditions, as it announced the results of its two year-long RE:SUEDE experiment. The suede used for these sneakers is Zeology Suede.

The results

In 2021, PUMA created 500 pairs of the experimental RE:SUEDE, using Zeology tanned suede, a TPE outsole and hemp fibres. The RE:SUEDEs were worn for half a year by volunteers in Germany to test the comfort and durability of the shoes before PUMA sent them to a specially equipped industrial composting area operated by its partner Ortessa Group in the Netherlands.

A special procedure had to be established to turn the shoes into compost. First, they were shredded and mixed with other green household waste and placed into a composting tunnel. They were then sprayed with leaching-water from earlier composting that contains nutrients and naturally heated due to the biological activity and controlled air circulation in the tunnel. After approximately 3.5 months, the materials that were small enough (<10mm) to pass through a sieve were sold as Grade A compost for agricultural use (within the standards of the Netherlands), while the remaining materials were returned to the composting tunnel until they too had broken down to the desired level (<10mm). Ortessa Group adhered to all legal requirements for compost applicable at their facilities in the Netherlands during this process.

“While the RE:SUEDE could not be processed under the standard operating procedures for industrial composting, the shoes did eventually turn into compost,” said Anne-Laure Descours, Chief Sourcing Officer at PUMA. “We will continue to innovate with our partners to determine the infrastructure and technologies needed to make the process viable for a commercial version of the RE:SUEDE, including a takeback scheme, in 2024.”

Read the full press release

Choice of materials

The RE:SUEDE materials were carefully chosen for their comfort and potential to decompose. The upper is made with Zeology Suede.

More information? PUMA shares its insights in a detailed report, so its peers and other interested stakeholders can learn from the experiment and apply the learnings to their own initiatives.

Collaboration between PUMA and Zeology

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Have a look at our RE:SUEDE's journey
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