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At. K 2022, Swiss sports brand On unveils its Cloudprime footwear made of CleanCloud EVA foam produced from carbon monoxide and waste-derived TPU.

Stephen Moore

October 20, 2022

2 Min Read
Image courtesy of Stephen Moore

A collaboration involving Swiss sports brand On, materials supplier Borealis, and technology providers LanzaTech and Technip Energies has realized the world’s first sports shoe made partially from carbon emissions. Specifically, the CleanCloud-branded EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) foam used in the midsole is derived, fittingly, for the K show venue of Düsseldorf, Germany, via a natural fermentation process akin to beer brewing.

The effort was truly global in nature and highlights the challenges plastics industry stakeholders face in developing localized supply chains to deliver to market truly sustainable products on a commercial basis.

The journey to the prototype Run on Clouds sports shoe started at Shaogang Steel in Hubei Province, China, where it operates a 50,000-tonnes/year carbon-monoxide-to-ethanol plant employing LanzaTech microbial technology. Technip then converted this ethanol to carbon capture–derived ethylene at a pilot plant in Boston, MA, before Borealis produced the EVA resin at a pilot plant in Germany. The EVA resin then made its way back to Asia, hand-carried by air in three separate bags by three On executives, to be compression molded in Vietnam by On’s subcontractor to realize the sustainable midsoles.

“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,” says Caspar Coppetti, co-founder and co-Executive Chairman of On. “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.”

To further the sustainable credentials of the shoes, On is also collaborating with circular start-up Novoloop on the CleanCloud outsole, by utilizing the world’s first chemically upcycled thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) from post-consumer plastic waste. For the upper, meanwhile, On is collaborating with French start-up Fairbrics to create a polyester-based textile made from carbon emissions.

In the commercial phase, ethanol will likely be produced at a steel plant in Belgium, while Borealis is looking at scaling of dehydration in Europe to provide ethylene. Going forward, the technology could potentially be used in other shoe components and products that utilize EVA.

About the Author(s)

Stephen Moore

Stephen has been with PlasticsToday and its preceding publications Modern Plastics and Injection Molding since 1992, throughout this time based in the Asia Pacific region, including stints in Japan, Australia, and his current location Singapore. His current beat focuses on automotive. Stephen is an avid folding bicycle rider, often taking his bike on overseas business trips, and is a proud dachshund owner.

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