Corn is already a valuable source of human food, animal feed and biofuel. Now, Reebok is using it for something else – the rubber soles of shoes. The company's Cotton + Corn initiative is focused on making footwear entirely from "things that grow" instead of from non-renewable petroleum by-products, and that can be composted once it's worn out.
Reebok partnered with DuPont Tate & Lyle Bio Products (that's all one company), which produces a rubber known as Susterra propanediol. The material is petroleum-free, non-toxic, biodegradable, and is derived from "industrial-grown" corn – that means it isn't grown as food.
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It will be used for the soles of shoes, while the uppers will be composed of organic cotton.
"Ultimately, our goal is to create a broad selection of bio-based footwear that can be composted after use," says Bill McInnis, Head of the Reebok Future team. "We'll then use that compost as part of the soil to grow the materials for the next range of shoes. We want to take the entire cycle into account; to go from dust to dust."
The first Cotton + Corn shoes should be reaching the market later this year, in the form of sneakers.
Reebok's parent company Adidas has ventured into the world of sustainable footwear before, with its one-off Futurecraft Biofabric runners that were made from biodegradable silk biopolymers.