Identifying sustainable adhesive materials for recycled footwear

OceanBound is a start-up, based in Greater Manchester that develop premium brand flip flops and sliders from recycled materials using a circular business model where non-wearable old products are returned, and recycled into new footwear.

Through initial research, OceanBound decided on the most appropriate materials for the first prototype – a recycled foam upper and thermoplastic rubber sole. They contacted the SMI Hub looking to understand which adhesives would complement more sustainable closed-loop footwear and reduce environmental impact, in order to successfully bond the upper and sole together.

SMI Hub Research Fellow, Dr Thomas Bennett, reviewed the types of adhesives that would be most compatible with the recycled foam upper and rubber sole within a closed-loop recycling system, providing an overview of the various classes of adhesive technologies commonly used for upper-to-sole bonding in footwear products. In a final report, the SMI Hub provided a commentary on the possible sustainability challenges that each option was likely to pose and summarised a series of recommendations for a more sustainable adhesive.

The SMI Hub put the final piece of the puzzle together for OceanBound. Now that their research is done I can finally bring the concept into production, allowing the business to be ready for launch by the end of the year. Working with the SMI Hub was an easy process and their business advisors helped me from start to finish in a friendly and professional manner.

Bill Cann, Oceanbound Ltd

Next steps

Using recommendations from the SMI Hub’s free advice service, OceanBound are now ready to put their prototype into production with a view to launching the footwear range by the end of 2021. The chosen adhesive will support the business’s ethos to find value in recycled materials and reduce plastic waste leakage into the environment.

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