LONDON – As the world's best badminton players head home after the World Championships in Denmark, the sport's leading manufacturer Yonex has told Reuters that some of them are competing for the first time in trainers made partly from recycled materials.
Sporting goods manufacturers like Yonex are seeing increasing demand from fans and shareholders alike to invest in the sustainable sourcing and ethical production of their products, especially apparel and footwear.
From Nike's Flyleather products, which are made by combining at least 50 percent recycled leather fibers with synthetic fibers in a water-powered process, to Adidas, which says 96 percent of the polyester used is recycled, sporting goods manufacturers have in recent rapid progress has been made in ten years to make sneakers and clothing more sustainable.
As well as reassuring eco-conscious shoppers, the companies argue that switching to recycled materials will help reduce waste and lessen their reliance on finite resources.
Yonex – maker of 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 the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games gold medalist , Chen Yu Fei of China and Denmark's Viktor Axelsen.
Yonex said both players took to the court for the first time in POWER CUSHION 65 Z C-90 sneakers, which have an upper made from about 90 percent recycled polyester. The company said it offered the shoes to athletes and recommended they wear them.
“The functionality of the new shoes is the same as the previous ones, which were made without sustainable materials,” Shinichiro Chiba, head of environmental improvement at Yonex, said in an interview with Reuters. “We assume that they will not feel uncomfortable wearing the new sustainable shoes.”
When developing the products, Yonex thought about how materials can be mixed to overcome the challenge that the physical properties of sustainable materials are generally different from those of conventional materials.
Chiba said it is currently difficult to replace all the raw materials in the shoes, so the company continues technical development. He added that using sustainable materials is currently more expensive as suppliers mass-produce traditional materials.
Taiwanese company Victor, a competitor to Yonex in badminton equipment, lags behind Yonex when it comes to providing its professional players with sustainably manufactured products, but states on its website that the company makes some textiles from 100 percent recycled PET – manufactures bottles.
Yonex said it uses sustainable materials like organic cotton or recycled fibers in 83 percent of its apparel products. The aim is to increase this value to 100 percent.
In China, the company is trying to recycle old tennis and badminton racquet strings to make polyester for players' apparel, Chiba added.