Cotton + Corn is Reebok's new sustainability venture

Shoes Made From Cotton And Corn?

posted by Paul Fiddian | 10.04.2017

Innovation Meets Sustainability In Reebok’s New Eco-Initiative


Reebok is blazing a new sustainability pathway with ‘Cotton + Corn’: its incredible new ‘dust-to-dust’ venture.

Corn is already one widely-tasked grain plant. Its applications include human food, animal feed and new-generation biofuels, to name but three. Now, Reebok’s managed to repurpose it yet further: it’s developed sustainable and recyclable shoes that have it in their soles.

The footwear/fashion giant’s done so as part of its ‘Cotton + Corn’ venture. Cotton + Corn involves shoes consisting of nothing but ‘natural’ ingredients i.e. ‘things that grow’. That’s in place of traditional fossil fuel by-products. The aim is that, post-consumer use, the shoes can be composted, returning their contents to the Earth.

Reebok Trainers

Cotton + Corn Shoes

“This is really just the first step for us”, explains Reebok Future team head, Bill McInnis.

He continues: “With Cotton + Corn we’re focused on all three phases of the product lifecycle. First, with product development we’re using materials that grow and can be replenished, rather than the petroleum-based materials commonly used today. Second, when the product hits the market we know our consumers don’t want to sacrifice on how sneakers look and perform.

“Finally, we care about what happens to the shoes when people are done with them. So we’ve focused on plant-based materials such as corn and cotton at the beginning, and compostability in the end.”

Corn-Based Rubber

Reebok’s pioneering corn shoe soles result from its partnership with DuPont Tate & Lyle Bio Products – the manufacturer of Susterra propanediol. This is a non-petroleum-based biodegradable rubber that’s field corn-derived and is non-toxic. Reebok’s prototype ‘corn shoes’ feature soles made from Susterra propanediol and organic cotton in their upper surfaces. Initial Cotton + Corn trainers are set to go on sale to the general public in late 2017.

“We like to say, we are ‘growing shoes’ here at Reebok”, McInnis adds. “Ultimately, our goal is to create a broad selection of bio-based footwear that can be composted after use. We’ll then use that compost as part of the soil to grow the materials for the next range of shoes. We want to take the entire cycle into account; to go from dust to dust.”

Reebok Future

Worldwide footwear and clothing firm Reebok was established in 1958, originating in the English city of Bolton.

Part of Adidas for the past decade, ‘Future’ is where new concepts evolve and new methodologies are explored. “The Reebok Future team was created to innovate not only the products we make, but also the process by which we make them”, says Reebok President Matt O’Toole. “Cotton + Corn is another great example of this, and one that can have a long-term positive impact on the world.”

Cotton + Corn image copyright/courtesy Reebok

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