How Nike Turns Trash Into Footwear

Nike’s goal is to have zero waste from its footwear manufacturing end up in either landfill or incinerated without energy recovery by 2020. It is a goal it is actively working towards. In 2015, 54 million pounds of factory scrap was turned into materials used in Nike products. In footwear manufacturing in 2015, Nike diverted 92 percent of its total waste from landfill and incineration without energy recovery.

Nearly 60 percent of the environmental impact of a pair Nike shoes is from the materials used to make them. Nike has a goal of reducing the average environmental footprint of its shoes by 10 percent by 2020. Using a material it calls Nike Grind will help the company reach its goals. Nike Grind is material that is from recycled sneakers, plastic bottles and its manufacturing waste, and is used in 71 percent of the company’s footwear and apparel products.  

There are a number of ways that Nike reduces waste. Nike’s designers have access to over 29 materials made from its manufacturing waste. Over three billion plastic bottles kept from landfills since 2010 and turned into recycled polyester for Nike products. Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe program recycled about 30 million pairs of shoes. Through the use of Nike Flyknit the company can micro-engineer every stitch of the upper part of a shoe, which reduces waste by about 60 percent on compared to cut and sew footwear. Nike Flyknit is used in 28 shoe models in six categories.

Nike reduces water and energy use and carbon emissions

Nike also strives to reduce its water and energy use and carbon emissions. Since launching its energy and carbon program in 2008, its contract footwear manufacturers have reduced energy use per unit by 50 percent, which means that it takes about half the energy and creates half the emissions to make Nike shoes that it did eight years ago. Nike’s big energy goal is to use 100 percent renewable energy it its owned and operated facilities. The company has already installed on-site renewable energy at some of its biggest facilities.

Nike has reduced water use by 18 percent per unit in apparel materials and 43 percent per unit in footwear manufacturing, which surpassed its goals for 2015. Nike’s goal for 2020 is to reduce freshwater use in textile dyeing and finishing by 20 percent per unit of production.

Nike wants to reduce the carbon footprint of its products by an average of 10 percent by 2020. To do so, it needs to increase its use of environmentally preferred materials (EPMs), particuarly for cotton and polyester. It has a goal of sourcing 100 percent of its cotton more sustainably by 2020. In 2015, 19 percent of the cotton it used came from Better Cotton Initiative, 26 percent was certified more sustainable by either organic, BCI or recycled cotton standards.  

Manufacturing polyester requires much energy, so Nike is expanding the use of recycled polyester. It is the top user of recycled polyester, according to Textile Exchange. In 2015, 39 percent of Nike Brand polyester garments contained recycled fiber compared to 27 percent in 2011.

Photo: Chris

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