As a group, we have come to realize that developing a bona fide system of circularity is remarkably difficult - especially when it comes to footwear. The rubber in your typical Nike shoe for example, is likely to be a thermoset polymer. It cannot be melted down and molded again. As the name "Grind" suggests, the rubber must be processed through a shredder in order continue its way around the product life-cycle loop. This continually downcycled material will eventually end up in landfills. Is there a way to prevent this?
We lingered on this query -
How might we prevent Nike Grind materials from continued downcycling? Can their performance as a feedstock within a closed system be preserved in perpetuity within the maintain/prolong loop?
How might we increase the material’s usefulness for a variety of applications?
How might we combine a Nike Grind material (technical nutrient) with a bio-binder (biological nutrient) to create an entirely new, hybrid material that is considerate of its own end of life? While the fusing of unlike materials is typically harmful and counterproductive to circularity if permanent, what if they could be separated easily?
These are all the questions we plan to explore once in the refinement phase. With access to the material, we will assess the best combination of bio-binder and rubber. Maybe this hybrid material would be best for single-use objects like cups or packaging. Maybe it will have some longevity and rigidity to then function as a building material or say, the hard outer shell of a suitcase or urban design elements (see idea Nike Grind x Circular Cities). It is difficult to conclude without testing or prototyping. We believe the material’s physical properties will dictate its function.