BASF is contributing its polymer expertise to the three-year WRAP Consortium project kicked off by the European Commissionlast year and aimed at developing high-performance sporting goods that can also be recycled. The “Sport Infinity” concept being pursued by cross-industry teams of companies is spearheaded by German sporting goods manufacturer Adidas and is focused in particular on applications in European football, or soccer, as the sport is known in the US.
Under the German chemical and plastics giant’s guidance, the 10-company consortium is working to develop innovative polymer-based materials for football footwear in a repeated material recycling loop, such as Adidas' concept shoe made of recycled ocean plastic waste. This means that following treatment, the materials can be returned to the same application. According to the project partners, the ultimate goal is to create a product that will enable the automatic production of easily customizable sporting goods, allowing greater design freedom.
With recyclability as a determining parameter, BASF’s focus is on a special type of new polymers with a broad mechanical property range that will lead to a recyclable product that can be fine-tuned to a variety of applications and related processes, said Jürgen Weiser, Director of Technology, Performance Materials.
Polymers used to manufacture the shoes will come from industrial or sportswear waste sources and will be re-engineered to the key manufacturing processes. According to BASF, the processes will utilize “almost every gram of material” and produce zero waste. The idea is to collect used football shoes, shred and reprocess the material, then blend the regrind with virgin material and reinforce it with selected fibre from similar or alternative waste sources. A design-driven approach is being adopted to exploit the automation potential of various moulding processes. This would enable a shoe to be produced in one process step, with no adhesives required.
Along with achieving the sustainability target, BASF said an added bonus will be allowing consumers to customize their football shoes in any desired shape, color and design, without having a guilty conscience about creating waste.