These boots were made for recycling?
That's the message Timberland, widely known for its wheat-colored nubuck boots, is sending to customers this week with the launch of its product take-back program called Timberloop. The company is encouraging customers to return Timberland footwear, clothing and accessories so that it can give them another life.
"By 2030, we aim for 100 percent of our products to be designed for circularity," wrote Atlanta McIlwraith, director for community engagement and activation at Timberland, in response to emailed questions. "With the Timberloop program, we’ve created the infrastructure required to 'close the loop' keep products/materials in circulation for as long as possible."
Consumers who want to participate in the program can return products in person at any Timberland store in the U.S. — more than 80 locations — or by printing a pre-paid shipping label online, packing items in a box and dropping it off at FedEx.
To get the products to their next life, Timberland is partnering with ReCircled, a Denver, Colorado-headquartered company that describes itself as the "infrastructure for fashion in the circular economy."
When ReCircled receives the returned products, each item will be inspected and repaired for resale on a soon-to-be launched recommerce section of Timberland’s website. It will handle some recycling internally and other recycling will be done in partnership with outside facilities. "Those partners include Timberland suppliers, allowing us to incorporate the materials back into Timberland products and work toward zero waste," McIlwraith said.
Returned items that are beyond repair will be disassembled. Reusable components such as zippers and buttons will be used to repair damaged products while all other materials will be ground down and put into respective recycling streams, for future uses, according to Timberland. Examples of those uses include recycled leather, insulation and playground mulch.
By making an account on the Timberland website, curious customers will be able to track their products along the journey and know if they were repaired for resale or disassembled so the component parts can be reused or recycled.
While Timberloop was launched in the U.S., the company plans to expand the program to the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region in April, and Asia-Pacific (APAC) region in 2023.
The program is one tactic for Timberland to reach its sustainability goals. In April, it plans to start selling the Timberloop Trekker, a shoe specifically designed for disassembly. The company said the sole construction allows it to be easily removed from the rest of the shoe.
In addition to its circularity design target, Timberland has set a goal for 100 percent of its natural materials to be sourced through regenerative agriculture. For example, in 2020, the company invested in regenerative leather ranches, which served as a source for the material for a boot collection. And in 2021, it started a partnership with design and development firm Terra Genesis International to create a regenerative rubber supply chain.
"Circularity gets us to net zero, and regenerative sourcing tips the scales to net positive," McIlwraith said. "It’s a lofty vision, but one we’re incredibly excited to be pursuing."