Footwear Assembly Sustainability Adhesives


 2023-06-05       212

While the footwear market is but only a portion of the clothing and apparel industry, it is by no means a small market.  Globally, the footwear market is a multi-billion-dollar industry, with an estimated worth of 382 billion U.S. dollars in 2022.  And this number is estimated to expand exponentially with the world’s population expected to grow to approximately 9 billion by 2050. 


Shoe production process in a factory

Worldwide, we are also seeing growing affluence in society, leading to higher levels of consumerism.  While this may be of some reassurance for footwear producers, developments in the footwear market are dictating a shift in footwear manufacturing.  The 21st Century consumer is one who is vastly different from the consumer of yesterday.  More aware, more informed, more affluent; this savvy customer is looking beyond performance, durability, and price. 

The modern consumer is searching for innovative features which speak to their value propositions.  While being comfortable and being fashionable will always be key considerations, they are also cognisant of the impact of their consumerist choices on the environment.  This is leading to consumer demands for better wearing experiences while leaving behind a more ethical footprint.  They want assurances that materials are sourced responsibly and sustainably, minimising impact on the environment and that workers are treated fairly.


The footwear manufacturer is thus challenged to find the fine balance between consumerism and ensuring an environmentally conscious process.  Innovations in the footwear industry is moving towards a shoe-wearing experience that is comfortable with customisable features for individualized preferences.  Such design innovations mean that a single pair of shoes may be made up of various materials, from leather to rubber to synthetic.  Manufacturers are also mindful of producing shoes that are environmentally friendly, from materials through to the production process.  While manufacturers source for more sustainable materials, they are also conscious of the need to transform the production process to a more sustainable one.


Shoemaker applying adhesive to the shoe

As adhesives play a crucial role in shoemaking, adhesive manufacturers have also played their part in researching for more sustainable solutions that are less damaging to the environment and to the human body. They are increasingly looking towards a shift to water-based adhesives with its benefits in the consideration for the health concerns for consumers, the environment, and workers.  Water-based solvents with its low VOC is more sustainable with its low toxicity posing less health hazards to consumers and the environment.


Worker safety is also enhanced with minimised flammability and low burn risk from the solvent-free formulas.  There is evidence from research that chemicals in manufacturing rival smoking as a major cause of respiratory diseases, heightening concerns to reduce these chemicals in the environment.  A recent project by SATRA showed that using water-based adhesives in the production of just a one-piece moulded unit of children’s footwear, based on a production of 500,000 pairs of shoes, can reduce the emission of VOCs to the atmosphere by 5.4 to 5.9 tonnes per year. 


While the use of water-based adhesives poses hugely sustainable benefits for the wellbeing of all, there is also financial advantages to be had.  Studies of adult shoes manufactured in Asian factories calculated that a multipart cemented sole unit cost approximately U.S.$0.50 to U.S.$0.60 of adhesive per pair.  An efficient operation line producing about 5,000 pairs a day using water-based adhesives can save about six cents per pair, which adds up to a savings of U.S.$60,000 a year. 

As a leader in the adhesives industry, Bostik has always been a committed adhesive solution provider with its range of reliable, efficient, and innovative solutions.  Whilst solvent-based adhesives are still widely used in the shoemaking industry, there is a definite movement towards water-based solutions as manufacturers realise the need for more sustainable processes to assure the future of the industry. 


Moving in tandem whilst looking ahead and anticipating the evolution of the footwear industry, Bostik has invested in R&D to offer water-based formulations for practically every application in shoe assembly. Products like WBA-WSR 138 and WBA-WPU-05 with their strong green strength and ability to bond a variety of substrates are excellent for the construction of shoes comprising different materials.  These formulations improve product performance and durability due to their high structural end-performance on various substrates.  Manufacturers are also confident of maintaining the aesthetics of their products with the adhesive solutions’ ability to protect leather from damage during production. Bostik’s commitment to providing a competitive edge to their manufacturing partners’ operations is evidenced in water-based formulations that are user friendly with long shelf life and speedy curing times. 


The sustainable benefits of water-based adhesives are moving the footwear industry in the right direction. As the footwear industry grows ever larger it is our responsibility to make sure that our future safety is assured by ensuring that the grass becomes greener on this side of the planet.

For more information, please visit www.bostik.com