Timberland retreads old tires as new shoes
Timberland announced a partnership with tire manufacturer and distributor Omni United on Monday to create the first line of tires ever purposely designed to be recycled into footwear outsoles at the end of their lifecycle.
The new Timberland Tires will be made in the U.S. and feature a rubber formulation appropriate for the recycling of the tires at the end of their useful life into shoes, rather than being used for tire-derived fuel or ending up in landfills. By designing the tires for a second life from the outset, Timberland and Omni United are taking taking recycling up a notch—to upcycling.
The companies say they first conceived this collaboration three years ago, when sustainability leaders from both brands came together to address a longstanding shared concern; the tire and footwear industries are two of the largest users of virgin rubber. The majority of tires on the market today have a limited life span; ecologically-sound disposal at the end of that life span presents yet another challenge.
To make the tire-to-shoe continuum a reality, Timberland and Omni United have established an industry-first tire-return and chain-of-custody process to ensure the tires go directly to dedicated North American recycling facilities to begin their path toward a second life.
Tire retailers will set aside used Timberland Tires for recycling after consumers purchase new tires to replace their worn out ones. Omni United is partnering with Liberty Tire Recycling and its network of tire collection and recycling firms to sort and segregate the Timberland Tires at the companies’ facilities.
Used tires will be shipped to a North American tire recycling facility where they will be recycled into crumb rubber. The crumb rubber will be processed further into sheet rubber for shipment to outsole manufacturers. The rubber will be mixed into a Timberland-approved compound for outsoles that will ultimately be incorporated into boots and shoes.
The Timberland Tires product line provides market coverage in three categories. The Timberland CROSS tire (for small SUVs and crossover vehicles) will be available in April 2015 in 21 sizes, expanding to 35 sizes by September 2015. The Timberland A/T tire (for trucks and large SUVs) will be available in July 2015 in 30 sizes, and the Timberland TOUR tire (for cars) will be launched in 2016 in at least 25 sizes. This will round out the Timberland Tires portfolio, giving it three distinct lines with more than 90 sizes covering about 75 percent of the North American passenger vehicle market.
With warranties targeting 50,000 to 80,000 miles depending on tire model, Timberland and Omni United anticipate the first lot of returned Timberland Tires will be ready for recycling in late 2017.
Until a critical mass of supply comes in, Timberland and Omni United are seeking alternative recycled rubber compounds for a special collection of Timberland boots with outsoles inspired by the treads on Timberland Tires.
This announcement is the latest evolution in Timberland’s efforts to put used tires back on the streets, which began in earnest in 2009 with the release of boots and shoes made with Green Rubber, a kind of recycled tire rubber. Later that year, Timberland launched the Earthkeepers 2.0, the company’s first product designed to be disassembled and recycled. The boots were 80 percent recyclable, its soles made with Green Rubber.
Many rubber products such as car tires, bumpers and shoe soles are made of vulcanized rubber, which is made by adding sulfur and heat to virgin rubber in order to make a tougher, more durable material — but notoriously difficult to recycle.
Still, over 75 percent of scrap tires are already recycled or are beneficially used for fuel or other applications, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association. Scrap tires are used in several productive and environmentally safe applications. The three largest scrap tire markets are: tire-derived fuel, civil engineering applications and ground rubber applications/rubberized asphalt.
Many uses have been found for recycled tires including whole tires, tires chips, shredded tires, and ground rubber. Retreading also saves millions of scrap tires from being disposed of as scrap each year.
This year, several companies around the world have been showing renewed interest in recycling, investing between $5 million and $10 million each into the Closed Loop Fund, a $100 million effort to invest in recycling infrastructure and put more recycled materials into manufacturing supply chains.
The fund also aims to increase recycling in the United States at a time when rates are leveling off but the demand for recycled feedstocks is mounting.