Plastic may not be the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of footwear. But a significant portion of modern shoes, including soles and uppers, are made using plastic materials. The billions of pairs of discarded shoes, flip flops, and sandals that end up in landfills every year take hundreds of years to decompose and pose a substantial environmental challenge. California-based Blueview hopes to alleviate the problem with what they claim is the world's first fully compostable shoe.
"As a surfer, I've seen firsthand how our oceans are being affected by plastic pollution," said Tom Cooke, co-founder and president of Blueview. "By uniting my expertise in the footwear industry with the advancements developed by our science team, I am proud to provide our customers with access to the world's first biodegradable shoe."
To fulfill his quest, Cooke partnered with Dr. Stephen Mayfield, a Professor of Biology at UC San Diego. Mayfield and his team had been working on ways to transform algae into fuel for many years. When approached by Cooke, they shifted their focus to developing a plant-based high-performance biodegradable material.
It took the team six years to create Soleic, a plant-based foam that is sturdy enough to replace the petroleum-based foam used in the soles of most shoes. The researchers then turned their attention to creating PlantKnit, a machine-knitted upper material for sneakers made entirely from plant fibers. The resulting shoe successfully decomposes in compost bins — or even in soil or the ocean — within a year.
The company asserts that Blueview shoes, available online for $135, are durable and comfortable and can be treated like any other shoe. The only difference? When it's time to discard them, the only thing you will leave behind is footprints.
Resources: Universityofcalifornia.edu, Newatlas.com, blueviewfootwear.com