Covestro and VAUDE join forces to create a non-GMO bio-based foam midsole for new eco trail shoe


VAUDE’s vision is to have 90% of products made from 50% bio-based or recycled materials by 2024. They plan to achieve this by finding eco-friendly alternatives to petroleum-based materials, increasing the use of recycled and natural fibres such as hemp and organic cotton, and using bio-based plastics from fully non-GMO (genetically modified organism) sources.

A previous successful collaboration between Covestro and VAUDE (the German outdoor gear and footwear manufacturer) resulted in the use of bio-based thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPU) on TRK Skarvan hiking boots. Covestor’s Desmopan® EC bioplastic TPU solution provided toe cap protection against rocks on the forefoot and added rear stability through the heel counter. 

From hiking boots to outdoor trail shoes – the new challenge

Although TPU is often found in the midsoles of active footwear, it was a challenge for VAUDE to find a non-GMO sourced feedstock for TPU which could retain the functionality required for that part of the shoe. A midsole requires a range of hardness and softness as well as abrasion protection.

From Theory to Practice

Together with Vaude, Covestro identified and tested a start-up raw material supplier, Metabolic Explorer, which is able to supply bio-based 1,3 PDO (propanediol), a building block in the production of polymers derived from palm oil. With the non-GMO raw materials from Metabolic Explorer, the entire bio-based feedstock in the Desmopan® EC 33000 series is now sourced from a non-GMO stream. This provides the same status to the VAUDE midsole component, which features a 53% bio-based plastics foam blend. 

No compromise on quality and design

• Non-GMO bio-based: Desmopan® EC 33000 TPU offers non-GMO bio-based chemical feedstock.
• Low-carbon:  EC range reduces the carbon footprint by more than 20% compared to fossil TPU.
• Highly durable: Desmopan® EC TPUs resist abrasion, oils, solvents and weathering.
• Drop-in:  Bio-based feedstocks work in existing processing systems with no new investment.
• Collaborative: New bio-based chemical feedstock grades can be created with value chain partners.

About Covestro

With 2020 sales of EUR 10.7 billion, Covestro is among the world’s leading polymer companies. Business activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative, sustainable solutions for products used in many areas of daily life. In doing so, Covestro is fully committed to the circular economy. The main industries served are the automotive and transportation industries, construction, furniture and wood processing, as well as electrical, electronics, and household appliances industries. Other sectors include sports and leisure, cosmetics, health and the chemical industry itself. At the end of 2020, Covestro has 33 production sites worldwide and employs approximately 16,500 people (calculated as full-time equivalents).