Every year, millions of footwear items end up in landfills. Most shoes are not biodegradable, and they’re leaving behind a giant carbon footprint. Nike, an international leader in sportswear, is working on finding a better approach. The fashion behemoth is calling innovators and tinkerers alike to help them create better gear using less waste.
The contestant can either develop a new tech innovation proposal to help improve current footwear recycling, or they can design new products with materials from Nike’s Grind program. The overall goal of this public call to action is to create a circular future where every single piece of waste is put towards sustainable and reusable products.
The first option, “recovery challenge,” is focused on where the footwear recycling process can be significantly improved. In anticipation of a shift towards a circular economy, Nike is on the lookout for sustainable innovation that will either work with, or totally replace, the recycling system in place in order to yield a better material output. While ideas are a good start, the winner will also have to submit a workable proof of concept and outline a feasible path for production.
Once a solution is chosen, the Nike team will consider working it into the Nike footwear site. While five finalist will have to successfully demonstrate their proposed solutions, each will earn a $10,000 grant to develop their ideas. They will also have a shot to compete for the $50,000 grand prize.
The alternative challenge option is to take the existing program, Nike Grind, to the next level. For almost 30 years, Nike has been able to collect and recycle more than 30 million pairs of used shoes. Nike Grind takes recycled materials from used footwear and manufacturing scraps and adds them back into value streams. By supplying Nike Grind materials to premium surface manufacturers, Nike has also been able to create more than 1 billion square feet of sports surfaces for things like tracks, playgrounds, and gym floors around the world.
While this is the latest of Nike’s sustainability initiatives, they have been working on creating an eco-conscious brand in other ways, as well. For example, the company recycled more than 3 billion plastic bottles since 2000 and turned them into apparel and footwear. Nike’s overall sustainability goals are to bring down their environmental footprint, encourage innovation, and push manufacturing to newer better, standards.
Nike’s President and CEO, Mark Parker, stated, “At Nike, we believe it is no enough to adapt to what the future may bring - we’re creating the future we want to see through sustainable innovation.”
Creatives with ideas to push circular economy boundaries might be able help one of the biggest sportswear companies build a more sustainable future. The deadline for submissions is May 1, 2018.