How We Turn Plastic Bottles into Shoes: Our Partnership with Parley for the Oceans

Plastic waste is a problem that has been sidelined for too long, and it’s time to turn things around. At adidas, we are changing the game with innovation. In 2015, we introduced the first ever running shoe made from upcycled plastic waste - the beginning of our partnership with Parley for the Oceans. Through our collaboration with them, we intercepted plastic waste on beaches and coastal communities before it reached the ocean, and gave it new life as an adidas x Parley product. That first shoe marked a turning point for us; it symbolised change for not only us, but for the fashion industry as a whole.

What is Parley for the Oceans? 

Parley for the Oceans is an environmental organisation and global collaboration network founded by Cyrill Gutsch in 2012. It sees the ocean as the most important ecosystem in our planet, and confronts any threats to it with creativity and innovation. It is dedicated to raising awareness about the beauty and fragility of our oceans. In order to do this, it calls upon artists, musicians, actors, filmmakers, fashion designers, journalists, architects, product inventors, and scientists to lead the way in making a change and provide alternatives.

The adidas x Parley collaboration 

Our partnership with Parley for the Oceans started in 2015. It was announced at a conference in the United Nations headquarters, where we showcased an innovative footwear concept born from the collaboration. The creation of this first shoe has quite the story behind it.

After intercepting and retrieving a heap of indestructible gillnet from the water, described by Material Innovation Manager at adidas Kelli George as “a pallet of old, stinky, dead, crab-entangled fishing net”, our mission was to transform these kilos of gillnet into workable material for a shoe in time for the conference. The illegal deep-sea gillnet was then hand cleaned, dried and prepped, and then sent off to our textile suppliers to be turned into yarn for the Ultraboost prototype’s upper. The completed prototype was unveiled at the conference as a first for the industry, bolstered by a promise to make big, bold steps with Parley for the Oceans to end plastic waste.


Since then, the partnership has driven innovation within the industry, creating a worldwide movement to save our oceans through the power of sport.

Over the last five years, we have steadily decreased the use of virgin polyester from our products and, by the end of 2020, more than half of all the polyester used in our products was recycled polyester. This has set us in good stead to reach our goal of cutting out virgin polyester entirely by 2024.

With ‘Primeblue’, we have produced a high-performance yarn for the sports industry made with Parley Ocean Plastic. By the end of 2020, we crafted more than 30 million pairs of shoes with Parley Ocean Plastic.

Want to learn more about plastic waste?

Learning more about the problem of plastic waste brings us all closer to solving it. The more we learn about our oceans, the better we can protect them. Feed your mind with knowledge and share it with those around you, starting with this list of films, podcasts, talks and books that Parley for the Oceans recommends:

Documentaries about plastic waste

My Octopus Teacher (James Reed,Pippa Ehrlich)
Honeyland (Tamara Kotevska, Ljubomir Stefanov)
Mission Blue (Dr. Sylvia Earle)
Blackfish (Gabriela Cowperthwaite)
A Plastic Ocean (Craig Leeson)

Books about plastic waste

The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier And More Creative By Florence Williams
All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, And Solutions For The Climate Crisis By Ayana Johnson And Katharine Wilkinson
Under The Sea Wind By Rachel Carson
The World Is Blue By Sylvia Earle
Other Minds By Peter Godfrey-smith

Podcasts about plastic waste

How To Save A Planet
The Ezra Klein Show
The Noaa Ocean Podcast: The Great Garbage Patch
The Climate Crisis Is An Oceans Crisis
Age Of Plastic

Talks about plastic waste

A Shift In Thinking Will Change The World, Emily Penn
Cleaning Our Oceans: A Big Plan For A Big Problem, Haaziq Kazi
How To Use The Oceans Without Using Them Up, Ayana Elizabeth Johnson
Can Beauty Save Our Planet?, Chris Jordan
Parley Live Series: Featuring Captain Paul Watson, Dr. Sylvia Earle, Doug Aitken
Why Should You Care About Whale Poo, Asha De Vos