On Running takes a circular economy approach to sustainability

Photo credit: On Running.

By Anders Lorenzen

Running can have a hard impact on both your body and the planet.

For frequent runners it is not unusual to go through several pairs of running shoes over the course of a year. They may also own different shoes for different types  of running such as running on road versus trails, performance shoes versus  training shoes and so on. All this consumption obviously has a corresponding  carbon and environmental footprint. 

Several running brands are looking to deal with this issue (Adidas have for example recently launched a range of running shoes manufactured from ocean plastic waste).

Changing the ownership model

 A new initiative from the Swiss running brand On Running aims to go further than anyone has done before  by changing how we own and consume shoes. The company recently announced that their new performance shoe Cyclon will be a subscription product through which  you will rent the shoes for the duration of their use and when they’re worn out you will return them to On where they  will be fully recycled into  new running gear and you’ll be sent a new pair. 

A circular economy running shoe

On Running have said this is a move that would make the shoe qualify as a circular economy product meaning nothing will ever be sent to landfill and will contribute to the brand’s commitment to going zero waste. The fully recyclable Cyclon shoe weighs just under 200 grams and is a performance shoe constructed to elite level competition. On Co-Founder Olivier Bernhard said about the product: “Making a fully recyclable, performance running shoe is a huge accomplishment, one that we’re immensely proud of”. He further explains how it didn’t stop there: “but we went a step further. We wanted to show that sustainability and performance go hand in hand. The subscription service enables runners to not only receive one of the highest performing shoes we’ve engineered, but to continuously receive the best and most up-to-date shoe technology coming out of our lab,” he said. 

Reducing the reliance on petroleum-based materials

On Running say the product is created from over 50% bio-based materials from castor beans and will not only be a flagship product for innovation in sportswear design and circularity but will also represent the company’s commitment to reducing reliance on virgin petroleum-based materials. Co-founder David Alleman added: “We built Cyclon to be a sustainable solution in every sense – from an environmental perspective, as a business opportunity and for the benefit of our runners,” he outlined that it is possible to make the product sustainable without compromising on delivering high performance: “in engineering our sustainable product technology, we haven’t sacrificed performance. We’ve enhanced it,” he said.

Not new to ambitious sustainability policies

Even before the launch of the Cyclon, On Running had ambitious sustainability policies. To minimise their impact on the environment the company have committed to reducing the environmental footprint associated with its use of petroleum-based materials including virgin polyester, polyamide and chemical-based adhesives in favor of 100% recycled polyester (rPES), 100% recycled polyamide (rPA), organic cotton and water based glues as well as increasing the use of circular materials to facilitate easy recyclability, though have not put forward a timeline when this will be achieved. In addition,they have also committed to the Science Based Targets (SBTs) to reduce their  carbon emissions, with a view to meeting them in the future and committed to addressing packaging with the introduction of 100% recycled cardboard and 100% recycled plastic by Q4 2021.

Cyclon is available via a monthly subscription in selected countries for a deposit of $29.99 and will be available globally in late 2021 via the subscription service.

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