Each year, the textile sector emits 1.7 billion tonnes of CO2, according to figures put forward by the WWF, among others. More generally, the production of sports goods – often with a limited lifespan – is a significant factor in environmental pollution.

In particular, the manufacture of balls, particularly in countries such as India or Pakistan, raises the issue of working conditions. In this context, more and more actors in the sports world are looking for alternative production models as part of a transition towards a more sustainable sport.

One example is Section Paloise, a rugby club in Pau, in the south-west of France.

Last July, the club announced the release of a “100% green” fan jersey made from “100% recycled plastic” at the start of the 2020-2021 season. Each jersey is made from the equivalent of 13 recycled 0.5L bottles. According to the club, this jersey is “the symbol of the eco-responsible approach in which the Section wishes to be involved in the long term.”

In a similar approach, France’s leading equipment manufacturers have taken up the challenge of eco-responsible manufacturing, following the example of French training clothes manufacturer Phenix, which wants to be the first 100% eco-
responsible equipment manufacturer in amateur sports, according to Ecolosport.

Phenix says that it produces sports equipment using recycled polyester and that it uses “only non-chemical inks”. On top of that, it has pledged to manufacture products individually so as not to have to “produce equipment that will be destroyed if buyers are not found”, adding that it produces jerseys without labels in order to produce as little waste as possible.

“Producing only what is necessary” is the promise of sportswear brand Skills, which also relies on products made from recycled plastic – as well as “Made in France” products for outfits to be worn when on the pitch or practising.

The manufacturer says it complies with a number of environmental and social standards in its manufacturing facilities outside France for all other sportswear and guarantees, among other things, the “non-existence of toxic products” in its manufacturing processes. In addition, Skills is committed to ensuring that workers’ rights are respected and no child labour is involved.

As far as balls are concerned, things are also changing: created in Nantes in 2019, the Rebond brand, for example, offers ethical and eco-responsible balls. Because “at a time when we are moving towards a healthier world (…), the ball is a bad pupil because of the materials used and the way it is produced”, according to the brand’s website.

The brand has thus expressed its “ambition to develop the first sports balls without chemical products or polluting processes.”

To achieve this, it says it is betting on bio-sourced, recycled or up-cycled materials (i.e. made from “products that are no longer used”, whose materials are transformed into “products of superior quality or utility”).

Rebond’s ball is also intended to be an artistic and ethical product. “Designed by an artist from Nantes”, it is “produced in a factory committed to respecting fair trade”, according to the manufacturer.

Specialising in rugby balls, BeRugbe has been offering “ethical” balls since 2016. As stated on the company’s website, the manufacturing in France, but also in India and Pakistan, “respects the fair trade charter”.

According to Ecolosport, the brand has also “eliminated its plastic packaging (…) for the delivery of its oval balls” as part of its eco-responsible approach.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]