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  • Writer's pictureRubber Conversion

MAKING FASHION MORE SUSTAINABLE: THE CHALLENGE OF FOOTWEAR

Recycling footwear components represents one of the ongoing evolutions in fashion.


Making clothing and footwear production more sustainable, among the industries with the greatest impact on the planet, is one of the emerging trends in the fashion industry. In response to growing consumer attention to green products, in recent years, several brands have begun to adopt green strategies and sustainable technologies to reduce the environmental impact of their products, increasing choice for conscious consumers concerned about protecting the planet.

The future of sustainable fashion and footwear is, therefore, constantly evolving thanks to technological advances. Brands are beginning to experiment with increasingly sustainable materials at every stage of product life - production, use and post-use - such as biodegradable fabrics and algae derivatives. In addition, the use of big data and artificial intelligence are in parallel enabling the creation of more efficient production processes, reducing waste and environmental impact.

Recycling rubber to make fashion more sustainable

One of the materials that is increasingly being used in this area is devulcanized recycled rubber, which can be obtained from the recovery of used soles, production waste, or the shredding and recovery of old tires and other rubber items.

This material, a valuable second raw material, can be reintroduced at different percentages within virgin rubber compounds in order to create a new material that can be used for the production of increasingly sustainable shoe soles. The devulcanization process is important because it allows recycled rubber to be reintegrated into the production chain without altering its properties.

One of the major advantages of using devulcanized rubber in sustainable fashion is its reduced environmental impact: first, the recovery and recycling of old tires and rubber items reduces the amount of waste that ends up in landfills or is destined for combustion; in addition, the use of recycled rubber allows for a reduction in the use of nonrenewable materials such as virgin rubber, and, as a result, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions associated with its production.

Not only that, this material is also very versatile and durable, making it suitable for the production of a wide range of high-quality products, such as sportswear, shoes, and outdoor accessories.


The Life Re-Shoes: Rubber Conversion and Shoe project for sustainable footwear

Current research in sustainable soles focuses on developing technologies that can create rubber mixes with materials such as cork, hemp, and recycled plastics. In particular, sustainable footwear brands are innovating to reduce waste and adopt new technologies for recycling materials.

Rubber Conversion, alongside Scarpa, is also active in the sustainable footwear sector through its participation in the Life Re-Shoes project presented at the last edition of Ecomondo.



New frontiers for fashion sustainability: biodegradable rubber

In addition to post-consumer recycling, research continues to identify new solutions to increase the sustainability of rubber use. Gommus, a company from the Marche region of Italy that specializes in the production of shoe soles, has developed Go!Zero Return Rubber. This is a special compound that, thanks to an enzyme inside it, degrades almost completely once thrown away.

During use, the sole remains intact: in fact, it is the bacterial environment of the landfill that makes it possible to activate the degradation process. From then on, the material begins to deteriorate, until it almost disappears after 180 days.

This is an important solution for products, such as footwear, for which, unlike tires, extended producer responsibility and material recovery is not yet in place.


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