Swiss sporting goods retailer On has found a way to make a running shoe from carbon emissions. Together with tech company Technip Energies, chemical company LanzaTech and plastics solutions provider Borealis, On now presents Cloudprime, a shoe made from CleanCloud EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) foam.

    Cloudprime is part of On’s effort to move away from fossil fuels and use alternative materials to create high-performance sports products. This makes the Swiss company the first in the footwear industry to use carbon emissions as the primary raw material for a shoe’s midsole.

    Image: Primecloud sneaker by On

    “Holding your hands on the first-ever carbon footprint shoe is a huge milestone – not just for On, but for the entire sports industry. Five years ago this was hardly a dream. Imagine what can happen in the future as we unlock the potential of alternative carbon sources through further research and in collaboration with the best partners,” comments Caspar Coppetti, Co-Founder and Executive Co-Chairman of On in a press release.

    The Swiss company has set itself the goal that every On product should be free of fossil fuels and completely circular. CleanCloud is the result of five years of work that started with finding the best possible partners. “This collaborative approach is key to overcoming the challenges of developing this complex technology on a commercial scale,” said On.

    Primecloud sneaker by On
    Image: Primecloud / On

    Thats how it works

    LanzaTech’s technology captures carbon monoxide from industrial sources such as steel mills before it is released into the atmosphere. These emissions then enter a patented fermentation process. Thanks to specially selected and naturally occurring bacteria, the carbon-rich gas naturally ferments and is converted into ethanol. This natural fermentation process is similar to that used in conventional alcohol production – beer brewing, for example.

    The ethanol is then dehydrogenated by Technip Energies to produce ethylene, which is then polymerised by Borealis into EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) in the form of solid plastic beads. And with this versatile and lightweight material, On begins making a high-performance foam for shoes.

    EVA pellets by Borealis
    Image: EVA pellets from Borealis / On

    LanzaTech uses a combination of the latest genetic engineering, the latest biotechnology, artificial intelligence and innovations in mechanical engineering and chemical engineering to produce chemicals using a process that absorbs carbon waste instead of emitting it.

    “Today we continue our journey to show the world that recycled carbon is a resource, not a liability,” says Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of LanzaTech. “If we increasingly convert pollution into products that we use in our daily lives, we will reduce the need to get even more carbon out of the ground! The partnership between On, Borealis, Technip and LanzaTech will change the way the world thinks about carbon sourcing, enabling us to bend the carbon curve, keep our skies blue and create a sustainable future for all .”

    Technip Energies is responsible for the energy transition and the process of dehydrogenating liquid ethanol into the gas ethylene, which is a monomer and the main building block of widely used plastics, while Borealis is instrumental in the production of easy-to-process EVA foam for CleanCloud .

    On's Cloudprime sneaker made with CleanCloud technology
    Image: On’s Cloudprime sneaker featuring CleanCloud technology / On

    “Borealis is delighted to be part of this unique value chain collaboration. With our creative partners On, LanzaTech and Technip Energies, we are proud to help shape the recyclability of carbon and to decouple plastic from its dependence on fossil resources. Through innovation and collaboration, we keep inventing new basic ingredients for sustainable living,” explains Lucrèce Foufopoulos, Borealis Executive Vice President Polyolefins, Circularity and Innovation & Technology.

    Primecloud sneaker by On
    Image: On’s Primecloud sneaker / On

    When does Cloudprime go on sale?

    On is collaborating with circular startup Novoloop on the CleanCloud outsole, which uses the world’s first chemically upcycled TPU made from plastic waste. The outsole has undergone rigorous laboratory and athlete testing and meets specifications comparable to fossil-derived TPUs, but with a significant reduction in carbon footprint. For the upper, On is collaborating with French start-up Fairbrics to develop a polyester-based textile made from carbon emissions.

    On’s boss for technological innovations, Nils Altrogge, answered the question of when the Cloudprime should go on sale: “Our mantra when we deal with innovative initiatives is: discover, apply, then scale. We have completed the application phase and are now moving to scalability. This proof of concept is a significant step forward, but it also shows that we still have a lot of work to do. Spreading this technology across the industry will require enthusiasm and investment not only from other brands in the industry, but also from consumers. Looking ahead, On is working to integrate CleanCloud technology into our footwear and apparel within the next three to five years.”

    Primecloud sneaker by On
    Image: Primecloud sneaker by On/On

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