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From waste to waterproof shoe

Projects | April 1, 2019 | By:

The shoe of the future is here, with a highly functional design made on an upcycling production line that uses recycled plastics. Photo: Sympatex.

Each year, 23 billion pairs of shoes made from raw materials are tossed in the trash, where they end up incinerated or are left to decompose in landfills. Sympatex Technologies, the high-tech company that produces and distributes membranes, laminates and functional textiles, has a better model for the lifecycle
of shoes than creating tons of waste that pollutes the environment.

During 2019 ISPO in Munich, Sympatex introduced Shoe 4.0, a sustainable prototype that can be manufactured within a closed-loop system. The company demonstrated a production line consisting of a plastic shredder, extruder and 3D printer. Visitors could watch shoes being made and see for themselves the potential to reuse plastic waste in the shoe industry.

Through this process, Sympatex created a waterproof shoe from recycled materials using a modular design concept. The shoe can be broken down easily into the individual raw materials for reuse.

Shoe 4.0’s basic element is Utmospheric, a seamless and waterproof inner shoe. The sole consists of Ecostep, a compound made of a minimum of 30-percent recycled rubber. It’s made by the Italian company Vibram, a world leader in the production of high-performance rubber soles dedicated to sustainability.

To emphasize that valuable raw materials are being tossed away, Sympatex collaborated with Munich-based sporting goods retailer Globetrotter to organize a plogging event (picking up trash while jogging) the day before the show. PET plastic waste was collected, shredded on-site and extruded into a filament. It was fed into a 3D printer, which produced an outer shoe material that, together with the inner
shoe and the sole, made complete shoes. For details, visit

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