Last year in June, the European Commission kicked off a new project that aimed at boosting the sustainability of sports products – and especially that of soccer gear. Adidas is leading the three-year, cross-industry WRAP Consortium project, known as Sport Infinity, which proposes to identify and develop innovative recyclable materials which will enable the automatic production of easily customizable sporting goods, allowing greater design freedom.
Next to Adidas, the Consortium has nine other expert members, one of whom is BASF, whose extensive polymer expertise is being put to work on meeting the challenge of developing new materials able to provide the desired product performance level in a repeated material recycling loop.
The research program is targeted in particular at soccer gear, and specifically, soccer boots. The idea is to develop a new breed of sporting goods that will not be discarded, but reused. Used soccer boots could be collected and shredded into tiny pieces, reprocessed, blended with virgin material and reinforced with selected fiber from similar or alternative waste sources, yielding a material from which a new boot can be manufactured. Moreover, a design-driven approach has been adopted to exploit the automation potential of various molding processes, potentially enabling the production of a boot in one process step – no adhesives required.
Polymers, either from industrial or sportswear waste sources, will be reengineered to the key manufacturing processes for Sport Infinity. These processes utilize almost every gram of material and do not produce waste. Moreover, they enable consumers to customize their football shoes in shape, color, and design. Consumers can thus become creators without having to worry about waste.
As recyclability is a determining parameter in the material selection process, BASF’s focus is on a special type of new polymers with a broad mechanical property range, according to Jürgen Weiser, Director Technology, Performance Materials at BASF.
“The goal is to create a recyclable product that can be fine-tuned to a variety of applications and related processes. Developing new and disruptive cradle-to-cradle sporting good concepts together with partners along the entire value chain is a perfect fit for us,” he said.
To that end, Sport Infinity has gathered expertise across the board, from design to material development, production, marketing and distribution and across multiple disciplines of industrial design, material science, recycling and industrial processes, covering the entire value chain to achieve one common goal: sustainable, customizable high performance football sporting goods made in Europe.