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Circ and Vivobarefoot team up

The two B Corp companies will design and develop footwear uppers made entirely from polyester.

12th September 2023

Innovation in Textiles
 |  London

Sports/​Outdoor, Clothing/​Footwear

UK footwear manufacturer Vivobarefoot is partnering with Danville, Virginia-based textile-to-textile recycling company Circ to work on chemical recycling solutions for footwear.

An estimated 20 billion pairs of shoes end up in landfill each year and their many different components and materials defy traditional textile recycling technologies. This complexity exacerbates challenges in developing circular solutions because it requires coordination and collaboration from many supply chain players. Early intervention in the design of future products which considers the perspectives of end-of-use providers is critical to changing this dynamic.

The two B Corp companies aim to design and develop footwear uppers made entirely from polyester that can be chemically recycled and reused in the production of new footwear without the need to add any virgin materials.

There are several existing footwear brands already using mechanical recycling to provide alternative end-of-use pathways for their products. This involves shredding and grinding the materials for reuse, but often these materials are turned into second life products that cannot be recycled in the future, ultimately committing them to landfill.

By contrast, Circ’s proprietary technology breaks down cotton and polyester from textiles into their fundamental molecules, allowing them to be rebuilt into high-quality lyocell and polyester that are competitive with virgin materials and can be recycled multiple times.

Circ is also dedicating its R&D team to the meticulous testing of Vivobarefoot’s footwear components and constructions, ultimately sharing its findings to influence the development of new footwear styles.

“We believe that by working directly with designers and developers to understand the recyclability of each of their new styles from the beginning, we can enable true circularity from the start and shift the footwear industry towards circularity as the norm,” said Luke Henning, Circ’s chief business officer.

The partnership intends to culminate with the launch of Vivobarefoot’s new Primus Circular footwear range in Autumn 2024.

“Our goal at Vivobarefoot is to develop performance footwear that is both durable and fully recyclable and for us that means being able to use our recycled materials to make new footwear, rather than downcycling them,” said Charlotte Pumford, Vivobarefoot’s head of regeneration. “This collaboration moves us a step closer to that goal, giving us the ability to make product design and development decisions based on science, which we’ve never been in a position to do before.”

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