How carbon emissions are now being used to make sneakers
Forget polluting materials and oil-based resources, Swiss sports brand On presents a pair of running shoes made from carbon emissions. This is achieved thanks to a combination of several state-of-the-art technologies in the biochemistry and materials sectors.
Carbon emissions have been rising steadily for several years and are partly responsible for global warming, hence the need to reduce them on a global scale. But they could also be transformed into raw materials for making new everyday products. This surprising idea is being put into practice by Swiss sports brand On, and is now taking shape with the launch of the first pair of running shoes made from carbon emissions.
Called “Cloudprime,” this first shoe is, in fact, only partially made from carbon emissions. Still, it’s a promising first step that could pave the way for an entire industry. To achieve this innovation, On partnered with three leading technology companies, LanzaTech, Borealis and Technip Energies, to capture carbon monoxide emitted by industrial sources. This is then fermented, converted to ethanol, and then dehydrated to create ethylene. The last step is polymerization to create the final material, EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) foam, which is used in the midsole of the shoe.
New sustainable resources
“Holding the first-ever shoe made of carbon emissions in my hands is a huge milestone — not only for On, but for the whole sports industry. Five years ago, this was barely a dream. Imagine what can happen in the future as we unlock the potential of alternative carbon sources with further research and in collaboration with the best partners,” said Caspar Coppetti, the brand’s co-founder and executive co-chairman, in a statement.
For the outsole, On worked hand in hand with Novoloop to create a chemically upcycled TPU material, while the upper is made from a “polyester-based textile made from carbon emissions” — the fruit of a partnership with the French start-up, Fairbrics.
The sports brand On is not alone in tapping into these types of resources to create more environmentally friendly materials and products. In 2021, California-based startup Newlight Technologies, introduced a new carbon-negative biomaterial called AirCarbon, made from greenhouse gases. This was used to make glasses, bags, and smartphone and laptop sleeves. It’s also a sustainable concept that the fashion industry can now build on as it seeks to reduce its impact on the planet.