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  • Writer's pictureRubber Conversion

Rubber Conversion in Re-Shoes to improve footwear sustainability

The project is part of the European Union's Life initiative and involves companies and universities to identify solutions for the recovery and recycling of end-of-life shoes.

At the last edition of Ecomondo LINK TO THE ECOMONDO ARTICLE, Rubber Conversion also presented its participation in the Life Re-Shoes project, part of the Life initiative financed by the European Union, which aims to identify a solution for putting end-of-life shoes on a circular and sustainable path, introducing virtuous recycling as a new standard within the footwear industry supply chain. Re-shoes, will be developed over 42 months and envisages the production and marketing of new footwear models made by collecting, sorting and recycling end-of-life shoes.

Developing a recycling model for footwear

The project is led by Scarpa, a historic Italian mountain and outdoor footwear company based in Asolo, Italy, which has received EUR 2.6 million in funding, to create an initial production and industrialising it by 2026. The project aims to be a forerunner for a recycling model that can also be applied by other footwear companies, for which today the re-use of end-of-life products is a major issue.

Solutions to improve the sustainability of the fashion system

Italy is the leading footwear producer in the European Union, with a total annual turnover of approximately EUR 14 billion. However, today there are practically no solutions to recover and recycle shoes once they reach the end-of-life stage. The most important environmental challenge of the footwear industry is the huge amount of waste generated in the end-of-life phase, where most shoes are disposed of in landfills: in recent years, the fast fashion trend has further exacerbated the situation. Less than 5% of the 24 billion pairs of shoes produced each year is recycled or reused, the rest goes to landfill or sits in cupboards for years.

Reducing the environmental impact: recovering leather and rubber

In a first phase, the project involves the manufacturer's distribution network in test areas in Italy, Germany and Austria to collect 15,000 pairs of used Mojito model shoes from consumers.

The project implements a new approach for leather recovery and is based on selective dissolution by hydrolysis. The resulting liquid will then be used to tan new leather without the addition of chemicals. Production is based on the EVOLO process (already used by SCARPA) which already allows up to 20% recycled content, with the aim of increasing this to 50%.

Another essential point of the project concerns the management of the rubber scraps generated during the cutting process, which are currently almost completely incinerated. Thanks to the Rubber Conversion technology, these scraps are incorporated into a circular and regenerative logic by using the secondary raw materials thus obtained in the production of new models.

The objectives of Re-Shoes are to reach a range of 50 to 70% recycled material use, aiming at a reduction, compared to standard processes, of 52.4% of greenhouse gases, 50% of chemicals, 65% of water consumption and 54.5% of energy.

The European Union promotes green fashion

RE-SHOES is promoted by a consortium of companies, including Rubber Conversion, united by a common goal: to create an opportunity for recycling and material recovery in an industry where end-of-life waste generation is very high. The project was submitted as part of the European LIFE Program and successfully passed the first selection phase for EU funding. It will be submitted to the second approval phase during 2022.

The partners of Life Re-Shoes

There are numerous partners supporting Scarpa in the different development phases of the Reshoes project. These include Rubber Conversion, which will apply its mechano-chemical devulcanisation technology to the recovery of rubber waste for the production of a new regenerated compound.

Other partners include Alma Mater Studiorum - University of Bologna, which is in charge of design for recycling and production, environmental impact analysis and Life Cycle Assessment; Sciarada Industria Conciaria, for material separation and hydrolysis of leather, as well as the Evolo process for the production of regenerated leather;, for the production of rubber sheets from secondary raw materials, separation of textile components and soles, and reconversion into components for new soles; Innovando, for the logistics part of the used shoe collection campaign; and Epsi - European Platform For Sports And Innovation, which follows networking and promotion.

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