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Product, Service & Design Innovation
Adidas Kicks Microbeads to the Curb

Athletics brand adidas will end the use of microbeads in its body care products by January 1, 2016. With the help of its license partner Coty, adidas has outpaced body care industry giants in eliminating the plastic beads from their products.

adidas made the announcement in a blog post by Jochen Denninger, Vice President for Strategic Partnerships at the company. Denninger wrote of his personal disappointment when he came across a Greenpeace report in 2014. The report explained the harmfulness of microbeads and highlighted six adidas shower gel and body care products that contained plastic particles.

Microbeads are tiny pieces of plastic that many personal care and cosmetics brands began using several years ago as exfoliating agents. Since they are under 5mm in diameter, they pass through sewage treatment plants after being washed down the drain, and they ultimately end up in rivers, lakes, and oceans resulting in more plastic pollution and contaminated food chains.

The issue was of particular concern for Denninger, who says he has enjoyed adidas’ work with Parley for the Oceans, an organization on a mission to protect and clean the world’s oceans. The partnership has resulted in sustainable product innovations including footwear made from upcycled ocean waste, and reductions in the company's use of plastic. adidas has eliminated the use of plastic bags from stores, has made efforts to reduce material use in its design and manufacturing processes, and plans to offer custom, zero-waste sporting goods in the future.

“Without losing time, we got to work and achieved a result that makes me proud,” Denninger wrote.

He went on to point out that by meeting the January 1, 2016 target, adidas would eliminate microbeads from their products “two years ahead of some of the biggest players in the body care industry!”

“A great achievement of our licensee Coty that shows that we can find alternatives and reduce plastic ocean pollution,” he noted.

Johnson & Johnson and P&G began phasing out the use of polyethylene microbeads in their products in 2013, with ultimate goals of eliminating them by the end of 2017. Similarly, L’Oréal announced that it would eliminate microbeads from Body Shop products by the end of 2015, and from all products by the end of 2017. Unilever completed its phase-out globally by January 1, 2015.


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