Meet the Trowbridge man turning old motorsport tyres into trainers

Alex Witty came up with the idea while studying at the University of Brighton. Credit: Compound Footwear

A graduate is turning old racing car tyres into trainers to try and reduce waste in the fashion and motorsport industries.

Alex Whitty, 25, from Trowbridge, came up with the idea while at university and turned his bedroom into a workshop.

The trainers he created are made from recycled rubber, leather and polyester and can be used to make new products at the end of their life.

The first range of Compound Footwear sneakers has just launched following a successful Kickstarter campaign.

Mr Whitty, a graduate of Sustainable Product Design at the University of Brighton, said he "wasn't winning any Flatmate of the Year awards" while he was experimenting.

"As the university facilities were closed due to Covid, I was recycling materials such as coffee and ocean plastic in rows of panini presses and melting seaweed polymers in the student kitchen," he said.

Alex Witty, 25, is turning old motor sport tyres into trainers. Credit: Compound Footwear

He started looking into recycling old motorsport tyres after he found out how many were wasted.

Mr Whitty explained: "It was during this time that the Australian Grand Prix was cancelled and I heard that about 1,800 brand-new tyres were scrapped and shipped back to the UK to be incinerated.

"I was shocked to find out that most motorsport tyres are burnt after each race and felt that surely I could find a better use for them," he added.

Mr Whitty spent two years researching how to recycle the tyres.

He has travelled to Bahrain, Italy, Spain, Germany and Portugal for shoemaking courses and meetings with world-leading industry experts, and now has a patented process to transform the tyres into trainers.

"We use race tyre rubber with recycled natural rubber to create the shoe soles," he said. "The uppers are made from waste leather and recycled polyester lining and laces."

The soles of the trainers are made from a combination of tyre rubber and natural rubber. Credit: Compound Footwear

Around 22 billion shoes and a billion tyres end up in landfill every year. Formula 1 alone discards over 40,000 tyres annually, which are sent to UK concrete factories to be incinerated.

Mr Whitty said hopes his business will reduce the amount of waste in the fashion and motorsport industries, as well as inspire others to make sustainable choices.

"Something has to be done, and we're not saying we can do the whole solution, but we're going to contribute," he said. "I think we're just trying to set examples for other brands."

He added: "Our objective is to avoid the use of virgin fossil fuels, reduce the number of different materials that make most sneakers un-recyclable, and incorporate sustainable, recycled materials."

The business has received substantial support from the world of motorsport, as well as funding from Innovate UK, Santander and Verizon.

Managing director of Silverstone, Stuart Pringle, said: "Compound Footwear's solution to sneaker and race tyre waste along with its mission to create a greener future in motorsport is commendable and we are delighted to be supporting their initiative."