uvex is the first company to have succeeded in integrating granulate made of polyurethane surplus from its own production processes into the direct injected midsole of its safety shoes and in launching the fully certified product on the market. The uvex 1 G2 planet was introduced to the German market last year with a recycled content of 25%, but it has since become even more sustainable with a recycled content of 30% thanks to the recycled material in the midsole and this latest model is currently being launched in the UK.
The uvex i-PUREnrj material used for the midsoles of uvex safety shoes has long been known for its shock-absorption and energy-return features. After several years of development and process optimisation, uvex has succeeded in supplementing its i-PUREnrj material with PU granulate from its own production surplus. “We are delighted that our efforts to reuse our PU granulate have finally paid off and are visible in the shoe”, says Laurent Rebstock, Head of Product Management Footwear at uvex safety.
The process of injecting a coarse-grained compound into a sole mould has existed for many years. However, due to the special processes required to manufacture uvex safety shoes, it is necessary to use horizontal closed moulds. As a result, it is not possible to replicate the conventional process exactly. Rebstock explains: “The granulate makes our PU mixture thicker, which blocked the injection nozzles when we first tried to use it”.
Many adjustments to the channels and production processes had been necessary in order to reach the current market maturity. “It really was a big challenge”, says Konrad Piechulek, Process Engineer at uvex Arbeitsschutz GmbH.
A further step towards increased sustainability
“Thanks to this innovation, we can now reuse and recycle our PU surplus, which has already been reduced in quantity. However, the real highlight is that this midsole has also passed all the necessary tests for safety shoes and, combined with our i-PUREnrj technology, features excellent shock-absorption and energy-return properties”, says Rebstock. By adding granulate to the midsole, the uvex 1 G2 planet, which was introduced last year with a recycled content of 25% (measured by the weight of the individual parts and in accordance with DIN EN ISO 14021), can now be replaced by the same model but with a recycled content of 30%.
“Improving our most sustainable shoe model is very much in line with our plans and is a great achievement”, says Rebstock. “We can now use this midsole technology in the other uvex 1 G2 models to make the entire range more sustainable and thereby drive our protecting planet sustainability promise. We still have several projects in mind and celebrate every further step we can take towards improving occupational safety and looking after our planet”.
Protecting the planet: footwear at uvex safety
The footwear department at uvex safety has been working to produce greener products since 2011. In addition to the uvex-wide list of banned hazardous substances, which includes more substances than the current REACH regulation, a photovoltaic system has been installed on the roof of the uvex Cagi production site in Ceva, Italy. Since 2013, the department has been implementing projects to reduce waste, which have so far decreased the amount of annual waste by approx. 20%. Since 2017, the Italian production site has been certified to DIN EN ISO 14001 thanks to its environmental management system, and since 2019, the site has been using only green electricity and green gas for production.
In 2021, uvex introduced the uvex 1 G2 planet — the safety shoe with the largest proportion of sustainable materials to date. For the first time, the company also calculated the CO2 footprint of this product in order to identify potential for improvement along the entire value creation chain. This year saw the introduction of the uvex i-PUREnrj midsole, which is made from up to 20% regranulated production surplus from the Italian site and can now be used across the entire uvex 1 G2 family.