The two companies will collaboratively design and develop footwear uppers made entirely of a single material (polyester) that can be chemically recycled and reused in the production of new footwear without the need to add any virgin materials.

Circ points out that it has dedicated its research and science team to the meticulous testing of Vivobarefoot’s footwear components and constructions, ultimately sharing its findings with Vivobarefoot’s product team to influence the development of new footwear styles.

It is of the view that by working directly with designers and developers to understand the recyclability of each of their new styles from the beginning, they can enable true circularity from the start and shift the footwear industry towards circularity as the norm.

Vivovbarefoot explains that there are several existing footwear brands already using mechanical recycling to provide alternative end-of-use pathways for their products. But often after shredding and grinding the materials for reuse, the resultant product cannot be recycled in the future, ultimately committing them to landfill.

However, 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 says it is also embracing the challenge of expanding its remit beyond apparel to explore chemical footwear recycling with Vivobarefoot.

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In line with this and subject to testing and results, the partnership will culminate in the launch of Vivobarefoot’s Primus Circular footwear line in Autumn 2024.

The companies add that they will lay the groundwork for a blueprint for recycled footwear by identifying and inspiring the industry to solve common design pain points, roadblocks, and challenges.

Charlotte Pumford, Vivobarefoot’s head of regeneration, says: “Our north star 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. This first-of-its-kind 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.”

Vivobarefeet adds further that their partnership also serves as an opportunity to set the benchmark for what it means to have a “recyclable” product, something that the footwear company believes has yet to be “well-defined” in the apparel and footwear industries.