Timberland’s New Footprint: Recycled Tires

April 5, 2009 at 1:32 am Leave a comment

By Kate Galbraith

Worn-out car tires could end up hitting the pavement again — as the soles of Timberland shoes.

This fall, the company plans to incorporate recycled rubber into the outsoles of two lines of footwear — Timberland Mountain Athletics and Earthkeepers.

“Managing tire waste can now become both a commercially viable and eco-conscious process,” said Jeffrey Swartz, the chief executive of Timberland, in a statement.

Some 200,000 pairs of shoes will have the recycled rubber soles, but that is just a tiny fraction of the company’s shoe fleet, which was estimated in a 2007 document to be more than 30 million shoes annually.

And the majority of the new soles will still be made of virgin rubber, with 42 percent coming from the recycled tires. The tire content comes from a Malaysian company called Green Rubber, which says it has an “environmentally friendly” way to reprocess the chemical-laden tires.

Timberland — which says it is the first shoe company to commercialize the Green Rubber technology — hopes to achieve higher blends over time. Green Rubber, meanwhile, plans to open a new tire-conversion factory in Georgia that, according to Timberland, should be operational this summer.

There are a few quirks to the process. At the moment, Timberland can only make black soles from the recycled rubber, due to the dark color of the original tires. The company says, however, that the cost is not a factor — the Green Rubber soles cost the same as the virgin rubber they will replace.

The recycled soles are the latest green initiative for Timberland, a company for which sustainability goes well with its rough-hewn image. Three years ago, Timberland began assessing the energy content of its shoes, and labeling the amount used and how much was from renewable sources.

Timberland’s New Footprint: Recycled Tires – Green Inc. Blog – NYTimes.com

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Entry filed under: Eco.

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