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Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
adidas, Neste Bolstering Markets for Recycled Plastics

Amidst the anti-plastic frenzy dominating corporate sustainability news lately, adidas and Neste have announced plans to increase their efforts to utilize more waste plastic.

adidas pledged to eliminate the use of “virgin” plastic in its products and across its operations. The new commitment includes polyester, a popular material for sportswear since it is light and dries quickly. adidas stated that its apparel line for the spring and summer of 2019 will contain around 41 percent recycled polyester.

The global apparel company estimates that ceasing the use of virgin plastic in its offices, retail outlets, warehouses and distribution centers will save roughly 40 tons of plastic per year, beginning in 2018.

adidas has already laid the groundwork for its new goal with its industry-leading collaboration with Parley for the Oceans, which has already yielded a popular line of shoes and a new line of football jerseys, hoodies and other sportswear, all made from plastic waste collected by Parley (including the 2018-19 kits for the Italian football club, Juventus, pictured above); adidas says it expects a sharp increase in sales of its Parley shoes. While still a small share of its global sales, adidas expects purchases to jump from 1 million pairs in 2017 to 5 million pairs this year; the latest edition of Parley and adidas' Ultra Boost shoe will hit stores this fall.

Meanwhile, renewable diesel producer Neste is exploring ways to introduce liquefied waste plastic as a future raw material for fossil fuel refining. The company aims to launch an industrial scale trial in 2019 and annually process more than 1 million tons of waste plastic by 2030.

“Neste has been ranked the world’s second most sustainable company and we are already the world’s largest producer of renewable diesel from waste and residues. Our target is to also be a leader in low-carbon refining and support circular economy by developing innovative solutions based on waste plastic,” said Matti Lehmus, Executive Vice President of Neste’s Oil Products business area.

“With our strong legacy in raw material and pretreatment research, we are in a unique position to introduce waste plastics as a new raw material for fossil refining. At the same time, we aim to provide solutions to support global plastic waste reduction,” he added.

Reaching industrial-scale production of products from plastic waste still requires development of technologies and value chains. To accelerate development, Neste says it is looking for partners across the value chain, for example in waste management and upgrading technologies.

The company is also “producing durable and recyclable renewable plastics from bio-based raw materials, such as waste fats and oils” through partnerships with plastics industry firms and plastics-consuming companies. For example, Neste and IKEA will produce polypropylene (PP) plastic from fossil-free, bio-based raw materials at commercial scale during fall 2018 — the first time in the world that bio-based PP will be produced at a commercial scale.


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