Polymer manufacturer Covestro has developed a material using thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), enabling the automated, lower-cost production of fully recyclable shoes.
Traditional shoe manufacturing requires several steps, because a variety of materials need to be sewn and glued together. This makes production time consuming and expensive, but it also impacts end-of-life recyclability. 3D printing, however, has paved the way for shoes to be made from only two parts: upper and sole.
Using a power and a filament based on TPU, the company’s new material can be used to produce both shoe parts, as the plastic offers high rebound and abrasion resistance.
According to the company, the shoe can later be recycled in a single step, including the polyurethane adhesive used for production. “This is an important milestone towards recycling,” the company reports. “Old shoes are thus turned into filaments for new shoes.”
The company will be presenting the new material at the Formnext trade fair in Frankfurt.