TPU: The perfect plastic for sustainable shoe production

The recyclable sneaker

Raw materials for concept shoe based on CO2 and biomass

Shoes usually consist of several kinds of materials that widely vary in their chemical composition. In order to be able to recycle these materials, they would first have to be separated from one another in a time-consuming process. At the K 2019 trade fair, however, which takes place from October 16–23 in Düsseldorf, Covestro will demonstrate that trendy and functional shoes can be made from a single material type: at stand A 75, in hall 6, the company will present sneakers, designed by Chinese shoe designer Axis Liu, that are made entirely of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU).

The option to recycle the concept sneaker, however, is not the only reason why it sets new standards in terms of sustainability. Add to this the fact that it contains TPU types of the Desmopan® eco range, whose carbon content partly originates from biomass. Other types like the Desmopan® 37385A in use are based on polyethercarbonate polyols, which Covestro produces from CO2 using an innovative technology and sells under the name cardyon®.

No compromise in quality and design

“The advantage of sustainability does not mean that any compromises have to be made in the properties or the design of the shoe,” emphasizes Wilson Chan, TPU expert at Covestro in the Asia-Pacific region. On the contrary:
● TPU fibers as material for the shoe upper are pleasantly soft and extremely durable. They also enable a seamless design, and Covestro’s innovative fibers can be dyed almost any color, making them a unique product.
● Midsoles made of foamed or expanding TPU provide maximum comfort and protect against fatigue.
● Outer soles made of TPU are particularly abrasion- and slip-resistant.
● Coatings and films made of TPU can effectively protect the shoe upper against mechanical stress and moisture.  If desired, they provide the upper material with breathable properties.
● TPU artificial leather also stands out in regards to recyclability compared to its substitutes and allows for a broad range of styles and applications.
● Also shoe eyelets, logos, quarters, toe caps and heels can be successfully made with Desmopan®.

About Covestro:
With 2018 sales of EUR 14.6 billion, Covestro is among the world’s largest polymer companies. Business activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative solutions for products used in many areas of daily life. The main segments served are the automotive, construction, wood processing and furniture, and electrical and electronics industries. Other sectors include sports and leisure, cosmetics, health and the chemical industry itself. Covestro has 30 production sites worldwide and employs approximately 16,800 people (calculated as full-time equivalents) at the end of 2018.

This press release is available for download from the Covestro press server at A photo is available there for download as well. Please acknowledge the source of any pictures used.

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This news release may contain forward-looking statements based on current assumptions and forecasts made by Covestro AG. Various known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors could lead to material differences between the actual future results, financial situation, development or performance of the company and the estimates given here. These factors include those discussed in Covestro’s public reports which are available at The company assumes no liability whatsoever to update these forward-looking statements or to conform them to future events or developments.