Flip-Flops are the most-sold shoes in the world - and the most often thrown away. What if something could be done to stop all that plastic ending up as landfill?
Students and researchers at the University of California San Diego recently presented a new kind of flip-flop - not that is made of an algae-based material rather than made from petroleum. That means that the carbon dioxide needed to manufacture it is taken from the atmosphere and not drawn from fossil fuels. And when the sole has reached the end of its useful life it's completely biodegradable.
They chose to develop a flip-flop rather than any other type of shoe because of the fact that they are made up of mostly sole and because with roughly three billion pairs being produced each year, they're far and away the number 1 most-worn shoe in the world. With the estimated cost of the shoe being just three USD per pair, that means a considerable potential market share.
Particularly challenging when developing the material was how to achieve the rubber-like flexibility needed for the sole. At the same university, two professors had already managed to develop an algae-based surfboards, where the conventional polyurethane foam was replaced by their innovative material.
We recently reported on Adidas's move to make running shoes made of ocean plastic, but that's obviously a very different approach - tackling the problem after it's happened, rather than the source of the problem itself.
So could biomaterials be the future of sustainable manufacturing? Find out more here about how shoes are being made from from cobwebs and furniture from mushrooms...