Builders and manufacturers have been doing some pretty cool things with plastic bottles lately. Here’s one more to add to the list.
New Balance announced the launch of a line of sneakers made from 95 percent post-consumer recycled plastic bottles. The design of the newSKY shoe replaces foam, leather and virgin plastic with a fleece-like material made from recycled PET.
Plastic bottles are chopped up into flakes, heated and molded into fiber to create the strong and versatile material, known commercially as Eco-fi. It takes about 12 bottles to produce one pound of fiber and eight bottles to make each newSKY shoe, according to the company.
Designers at New Balance embraced the new material for its eco benefits but struggled initially to create a stylish and comfortable shoe made from bottles.
“The principles of shoemaking didn’t necessarily apply to this fabric,” said Drew Spieth, design lead for wellness at New Balance. “It doesn’t work like a regular shoe material.”
A streamlined look was chosen to accommodate the fabric’s unique characteristics, and design elements like a slimmer outsole were borrowed from the NB Minimus to minimize waste and maximize comfort.
“It was a big goal to keep it functional and looking stylish,” Spieth said. “At the end of the day, it looks like an interesting shoe and also looks great on the foot.”
By making the most of the fabric’s ability to change through heating, molding and pressing, designers were able to eliminate most reinforcement materials and non-recycled components.
The recycled material’s lighter weight and excellent thermal conductivity make it a smart choice for runners, the company said. Eco-fi material is about 10 percent lighter than cotton and keeps out the cold better than nylon or wool.
Eco-fi is also a hydrophobic fiber, which repels water to keep feet dry and clean. The newSKY shoe for men and women will be available for purchase in stores and online in October, the company said.