Waboba - Rewild Soccer Ball

overall rating:

1.2

planets

Brendan Bontrager
8/19/2021
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If you are looking for a more sustainable way to play soccer (or football for those outside the US), Waboba’s Rewild Soccer Ball is a good place to start. The product is made using jute fiber which comes from remarkably low-maintenance and eco-friendly plants. The product stumbles when it comes to the rubber used to make it, as rubber production creates significant strain on biodiversity and indigenous communities, but the recycled packaging and proceeds donated to environmental causes make this a good alternative to traditional soccer balls. Though Waboba’s commitment to sustainability is not quite holistic and DEI initiatives are virtually nonexistent, the company still takes commendable steps toward ethical labor and environmental consciousness. Ultimately, this imperfect product is a step in the right direction and signifies a legitimate consideration of sustainability at the corporate level. 

What it's made of:

2

The Rewild Soccer Ball is made from jute, rubber tree, and is sold in recycled packaging. Jute is a particularly eco-friendly plant made of fiber that can can be spun into durable yarns and threads that have a wide variety of textile uses. The plant does not require any fertilizer, pesticides, or irrigation as it can be quickly cultivated in its native regions using rainfall alone. Not only does jute absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen faster than trees, its cultivation also enhances soil fertility. In addition to biodegradability, jute can be easily and effectively recycled. Overall, jute is a great choice for a sustainable textile; unfortunately the same can not be said about the rubber tree. Waboba makes a point to note that this ball is made from “rubber tree” and not just “rubber”, which may be a useful distinction because rubber can be synthetically produced, but you should not that nearly half of global rubber production is natural. Waboba does not provide any information as to how they source their rubber, and while rubber can be produced sustainably, almost all natural rubber is grown on plantations with severe environmental impacts. Most plantations are in Southeast Asian forests which are already under significant stress from palm oil and paper plantations and logging. Rubber plantations require that large tracts of native forest be cleared resulting in biodiversity loss and conflicts with indigenous and local communities, not to mention the host of associated ethical labor issues. I would like to give Waboba the benefit of the doubt here, but because this product is branded as eco-friendly, I would be surprised if the company was using sustainably sourced rubber and not making a point to say so. As for packaging, nothing is said other than that it is recycled, so while transparency in how this process works is always preferred, recycled packaging is a good thing to see in a product nonetheless. 

How it's made:

0.5

Waboba does not have any publicly available impact reports so information on their production process for this product line is virtually impossible to find as a consumer. Their website does note that most of their products are hand-made and that they care about using non-toxic materials, but they do not mention the degree to which they use such materials. As is typical with most sports equipment companies, Waboba claims that their products are built to last in order to extend their useful lives, but in the case of the Rewild Soccer Ball, this claim does not necessarily hold. Waboba warns that this product should only be used barefoot and not on hard surfaces, which raises serious questions about the durability of this specific product. 

Who makes it:

1

Waboba is a Swedish sports equipment company with offices in Sweden, the US, Portugal, Mexico, and China. In terms of environmental sustainability, the company claims to be committed to “finding eco-friendly solutions that work in favor of the environment”. The main evidence to support this claim is their use of recycled packaging in all their products, a commitment to zero plastic used in packaging and operations by the end of 2021, and their Rewild product line which includes soccer balls, footballs, volleyballs, and paddle sets. Waboba allocates 10% of the proceeds from the Rewild line to support environmental protection and restoration initiatives, although specific details about the size and destinations of these contributions are not provided. The company is more lacking in terms of social sustainability. There are no obvious commitments to diversity, equity, or inclusion, and when it comes to ethical labor all that Waboba says is that visit their factories “several times a year to make sure they have what they need from us for a safe, happy workplace”. They do, however, encourage organizations to reach out for value-focused partnerships as they currently support causes such as clean water and finding homes for homeless pets. Waboba’s commitments to recycled packaging, zero plastic, and contributions to environmental causes are commendable, but their lack of attention to GHG emissions render their environmental efforts half-hearted.