Nike Inc. has put a price tag on sustainable sneakers.
For $100, shoe buyers can pick up a pair of ``Trash Talk'' basketball shoes, made from bits of recycled urethane foam, odd lots of unused leather and even post-industrial scrap rubber.
While the Beaverton, Ore.-based shoe and athletic equipment maker may have only one limited edition version available now, it is continuing to investigate ways to put its scraps and waste to work.
``I've got a dumpster-diver streak in me,'' said Kasey Jarvis, Nike's senior creative designer for running, during a Sept. 11 discussion about the sneaker's development at the Industrial Designers Society of America's annual conference in Phoenix.
The Trash Talk sneaker, which is being marketed under Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash's name, made its debut on Nash's feet at the NBA All-Star Game in February, then went on sale to the public in limited numbers.
The shoe got its start when Jarvis saw the amount of scrap leather left behind at one of Nike's plants in Vietnam, he said.
While the manufacturer works to cut its pieces as tightly as possible on each piece of leather, there is always something left over, with some scraps measuring 3-6 inches in size. All those scraps add up to a lot of unused material.
Once he saw the leather, Jarvis said, he started seeing other bits and pieces of shoe production that went to the landfill.
``Once you train yourself to see waste, you can't not see it,'' he said.
The waste included urethane foam used for shoes' inner structure, cloth and rubber soles. The company looked at injection molded plastics, but found little left behind once its suppliers had done their own in-house recycling.
Jarvis and his Nike team began looking at ways to use its other scraps. They ended up grinding and molding the foam leftovers to form a new midsole layer, using a rubber regrind in the sole and cutting the leather into smaller tile shapes, which are then re-stitched to form the outer layer.
Nike played with the concept of using different-color swatches of leather, but ended up with a plain white surface for the final product, he said.
The shoe had to perform, though, and not just look good, Jarvis said. A professional basketball player puts a lot of strain on a shoe, and while Nash was interested in the environmental aspects of the shoe, he also needed to ensure he could actually use it in games. That meant Nike had to design a shoe made from recycled parts that would perform as well as one using virgin materials.
Since the All-Star Game, Nash has continued using his own Trash Talk sneakers, Jarvis said, and even used his film production company to create a promotional film for it, playing off the themes of the 1970s TV series ``The Six Million Dollar Man.''
Now that Nike has shown it can create a functional athletic shoe out of scrap, it is looking at other ways to use its waste. The company is trying to develop contacts with manufacturers and scrap vendors near its Asian plants to create a steady waste stream, Jarvis said.