LONDON, Aug 29 (Reuters) – As the world’s best badminton players travel home after the World Championships in Denmark, the sport’s leading manufacturer Yonex (7906.T) told Reuters some of them were fighting it out for the first time in sneakers made partly from recycled materials.
Sports equipment makers like Yonex have seen increasing demand from fans and shareholders alike to invest in sustainable sourcing and ethical production for their products, particularly clothes and shoes.
From Nike’s (NKE.N) Flyleather products – made by binding at least 50% recycled leather fibres with synthetic fibres using a water-powered process – to Adidas (ADSGn.DE) saying 96% of the polyester it uses is recycled, sporting goods makers have in the past decade raced to make sneakers and apparel more sustainable.
In addition to appeasing environmentally conscious shoppers, the companies argue that switching to recycled materials helps reduce waste and their reliance on finite resources.
Yonex – which makes the official tournament shuttlecocks used in all major Badminton World Federation (BWF) events, as well as the Olympic Games – sponsored apparel and equipment for dozens of players at the world championships, including Tokyo 2020 Olympic gold medalists Chen Yu Fei from China and Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen.
Yonex said both players had taken to the court for the first time wearing its POWER CUSHION 65 Z C-90 sneakers, which use recycled polyester in about 90% of the upper area’s material. The company said it offered the shoes to the athletes and recommended they wear them.
“The functionality of the new shoes is the same as the previous ones made without the sustainable materials,” Shinichiro Chiba, head of Yonex’s environmental enhancement department, told Reuters in an interview. “We believe they are not feeling any discomfort wearing the new sustainable shoes.”
While developing the products, Yonex thought about how to blend materials in order to overcome the challenge of the physical properties of sustainable materials generally being different to traditional materials.
Chiba said it is difficult to switch all the raw materials in the shoes at the moment so the company is continuing technical development. He added that sustainable materials currently cost more to use because suppliers mass-produce traditional materials.
Taiwan’s Victor, a rival to Yonex in badminton kit, lags Yonex in dressing its professional players in sustainably made products, but says on its website it makes some textiles from 100% recycled PET bottles.
Yonex said it uses sustainable materials in 83% of its apparel products, such as organic cotton or recycled fibers. Its aim is to increase this to 100%.
In China, the company is trialing recycling old tennis and badminton racket strings to make polyester used in apparel for players, Chiba added.
Reporting by Richa Naidu; Editing by David Holmes
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.