Here’s how Nike made the Team USA Women’s World cup kit from recycled plastic

Sustainability |  2 min. read

What do you have in common with Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and the rest of the U.S. Women’s World Cup squad?

Ok, probably not your skills on the field.  But even if the only “nutmeg”* you know is in your spice cabinet — if you’ve cracked open a water bottle in the last year, you’re a part of the team in a way.

Because Team USA “kit” (soccer-speak for their jerseys and shorts) are made from recycled plastic bottles (at least 12 bottles-worth in every kit).  Like your water bottle — assuming you recycled it.  Which you did, right?

Here’s how Nike (which makes this year’s jerseys and shorts) explains it: 

“The process involves melting down recycled plastic bottles to produce a fine yarn.  The bottles are cleaned, shredded into flakes and converted into pellets.  From there, the pellets are melted and spun into the high-quality yarn used to create the kits, delivering peak performance with a lower impact on the environment.”

Each team has two kits — “home” and “away” (even though every team but France is playing away from home).

At home, the U.S. women are in white, with red and blue stripes on the jersey cuffs, and three stars — one for each time the women have won the World Cup (1991, 1999 and 2015).  That look, by the way, is a shout out to the 1999 team (Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain — THAT team).  On the road, the women are in red.

(Photo from U.S. Soccer)

Nike worked with the U.S. women on the look, but also on the design of the jerseys (a V-neck, but not a deep one) and shorts (elastic waistband instead of drawstrings).  The fabric is comfortable to wear, and moisture-wicking, so also comfortable to wear while playing.

Most plastic water bottles are made from PET, which is the handy short name for this very long name — polyethylene terephthalate.  And to make PET, you start with two petrochemicals — ethylene and xylene.  Those are produced from oil and natural gas.

And just in case you’ve got another favorite team as well — not to worry.  ALL 24 teams are wearing Nike-made kit, and all of them are produced using the same recycled“water bottle” plastic.  But when you are watching the U.S. team, keep an eye on Tobin Heath — aka “Queen of the Nutmeg.”

*Nutmeg:  When you pass the ball to yourself, through an opposing player’s legs.