The shoe industry has a few rather serious sustainability issues. Leather is a bi-product of cattle, an industry notorious for its huge level of carbon emissions.
At the same time it has a problem with recycling. Globally, 300 million pairs of shoes are estimated to be thrown away each year. And in the UK 85% of the shoes discarded in the UK each year will end up in landfills or incinerators.
The recycling rate is so low largely because the combination of materials in shoes from glue to leather and rubber make them very tricky to recycle.,
Iconic British footwear brand Clarks acknowledges the industry has a problem and has committed to addressing it.
It has just unveiled the Origin’ range which the brand claims has been designed to reduce waste and improve recyclability.
The key innovation is that the Origin shoes contain zero glue and are made using five pieces, each of which can be disassembled at the end-of-life stage.
The five pieces are an outsole made from 51% recycled content; a footbed containing recycled ethylene-vinyl acetate, recycled rubber and a responsibly sourced sheepskin liner; a responsibly sourced suede upper; 100% recycled polyester laces and mono-material nylon thread. This latter component is the replacement for the glues that often make footwear challenging to recycle.
Clarks also claims that the new approach has reduced its product-related emissions, though it hasn’t released figures to back them up. It does however stress that the leather components have been sourced from tanneries that have formally committed to reducing their climate impact.
Clarks’ chief marketing officer Tara McRae said: “We are known for the quality and durability of our shoes which inherently means we support sustainable fashion.
“But we still have a lot to work on. We are on a journey to becoming more sustainable every day, from sourcing more sustainable materials to supporting better working conditions for the people who make our shoes. Our brand-new shoe, ‘Origin’ is just one great example of what we can achieve as a business, designing for a more sustainable future.”