3D-printed, compostable shoes are a step toward sustainability

On-demand, custom fashion could keep shoes out of our landfills.

What if we told you that you can soon buy a shoe that costs hundreds of dollars and looks like a Croc and a sock had a baby? Not interested? Weird. But what if that shoe could solve some of the world’s biggest sustainability problems? That kind of changes things.The footwear in question is a collaboration between London shoe brand Vivobarefoot and material science company Balena, per The Guardian. 

Five plants growing up from brown soil, three of which have sneakers blooming from the tops.

Customers will have their feet 3D-scanned in stores and their shoes will be custom printed over 30 hours. The shoes use BioCir flex, a patented thermoplastic made of 51% biological material and 49% petrochemical. Printing shoes on demand and to a customer’s exact specifications eliminates the need for extra stock or wasted materials. 

The shoes are still being prototyped and are not yet available, but a pair will one day set you back ~$254-$330. High costWhile that might seem steep for a questionable fashion choice, the price of ignoring our recycling problems is even higher. 

The fashion industry produces ~10% of global carbon emissions and uses massive amounts of water and land. Shoes are one of the biggest offenders: most are made with rubber, plastic, metal, and adhesives that are hard to dispose of and ultimately pile up in landfills. 

While these 3D-printed shoes still can’t go straight to the compost bin with your fruits and veggies, they can be returned to an industrial composting plant and broken down into a nontoxic substance.  And it might be time to get used to the look — these funky kicks join a growing group of brands attempting to make footwear sustainable by using everything from mushrooms and sugarcane to cacti and bananas.

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Topics: Clothing

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