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New PUMA Line Closes the Loop on Shoes, Shirts and Bags

Image credit: Ecouterre

Sport lifestyle company PUMA said it will launch a new collection of shoes, apparel and accessories next year that are either biodegradable or recyclable. In addition, the company released details from a new facet of its groundbreaking Environmental Profit and Loss (EP&L) accounting that analyzes the environmental impacts of two products from the new eco-friendly line with two conventional PUMA products.

The InCycle collection, which will arrive in stores for Spring/Summer 2013, is PUMA’s first holistic attempt to address the end-of-life environmental impacts of its products. Among other items, the line includes a biodegradable sneaker, a recyclable track jacket, biodegradable shirts and a recyclable backpack. 

Recycling means that used materials — which normally end up in conventional disposal such as landfills and incineration plants — will be processed into new materials. Alternative waste disposal such as recycling uses less energy compared to raw material manufacturing, reduces air pollution from waste incineration and land use from landfilling. Recycling requires energy, but far less on average than raw material creation. A precondition for products to be recyclable is that the materials within the product are not blended with other materials. This homogeneity is necessary because mixed or composite materials constrain separation during the recycling process and pure recycled materials cannot be obtained. PUMA's recyclable products, such as the track jacket and the backpack, have been created using only homogenous materials to ensure they are fully recyclable at the end of their lifecycles. PUMA’s “Bring Me Back” program will educate and encourage customers to return items for recycling.

A precondition for products to be considered biodegradable is that they must be made of only biodegradable materials including organic fibers without any toxic chemicals, and the products have to meet certain international standards for composting. The upper of Puma’s biodegradable “Basket” sneaker is made of a mix of organic cotton and linen while the sole is composed of the biodegradable plastic. When collected through the company’s Bring Me Back Program, shredded and transported to an industrial composting facility system, the materials of the Basket compost into natural humus and become part of the ecosystem again.

All products of the PUMA InCycle collection will be 100% Cradle-to-Cradle Basic certified, making them the first collection of footwear, apparel and accessories to carry this certification. 

First Product EP&L

The new products also will reduce the environmental impact associated with manufacturing. After PUMA's 2010 EP&L accounting revealed that 57 percent of the company’s environmental impacts are associated with the production of raw materials such as leather, cotton and rubber, PUMA aimed at increasing the number of products made of more sustainable materials. The InCycle line uses biodegradable polymers, recycled polyester and organic cotton in order to eliminate pesticides, chemical fertilizers and other hazardous chemicals. 

PUMA released first-ever EP&L data comparing its products. The analysis revealed that the InCycle basket and shirt impact the environment 31 percent less than similar conventional products. The analysis (supported by consulting firms Trucost and PwC) focused on the environmental impacts caused by Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, waste and air pollution, as well as the use of natural resources such as water and land, along the entire value chain  from the generation of raw materials and production processes to when customers use, wash, dry, iron and finally dispose of the products.

Furthermore the analysis found that it takes 31 trucks with a load capacity of 13,000 kg to clear the waste that 100,000 pairs of conventional PUMA suede sneakers cause during the production process and consumer life until they end up on landfills or in incinerators. In comparison, 12 trucks are needed to clear the waste from 100,000 pairs of the biodegradable sneakers, which can then end up in an industrial composting facility system.

More importantly, the Product EP&L attaches a price tag of Euros and Cents to these environmental impacts, making cost a clear indicator of product sustainability. While the environmental impacts of the conventional PUMA suede shoes amount to €4.29 per pair, the environmental impacts of the biodegradable InCycle Basket are only €2.95 — 31 percent lower. The environmental costs for the conventional PUMA cotton shirt (€ 3.42) are also 31 percent higher than those for the biodegradable InCycle shirt (€ 2.36). Specific figures and details concerning impacts on GHGs, water, waste, air pollution and land use are available online.

"Environmental impacts traditionally have different units of measurement, making it difficult to compare the overall environmental impact of different products and this can be confusing for consumers. One product may have a high water impact, another may be more carbon intensive or cause more pollution,” Richard Mattison, Chief Executive of Trucost said. “Measuring the environmental impact in Euros and Cents allows companies to create an overall metric for each product that takes into account many different environmental factors. The PUMA Product EP&L allows company managers to embed sustainability within everyday product design and procurement decisions and provides consumers with information on which products are better for the planet."

@Bart_King is a freelance writer and communications consultant.

Bart King is the principal and founder of New Growth Communications, a network of affiliated content producers and strategists serving clients in the emerging green economy. Follow him @bart_king and on LinkedIn.

[Read more about Bart King]

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