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How the Shoe Industry is Supporting our  Oceans

Plastic has afflicted our oceans for what feels like an eternity. Considering the poignant message given to us by last week’s Blue Planet 2 episode, so much more needs to be done about plastic pollution plaguing our oceans. Sir David Attenborough has stated that, along with global warming, plastic is the biggest threat to ocean conservation. He went on to explain that “surviving in the open ocean has always tested animals to their limit, but now they face a new threat. Plastic”.

The Plastic Problem

From animals choking on six pack rings to chemical contamination, plastic has proved itself to be a vicious killer. However, it has only managed to wreak havoc because each year it us who produce 300 million tons of it and it is also us who have placed 5 trillion pieces of microplastic in the ocean.

Flickr | Emilian Robert VicolThere have been numerous campaigns surrounding eco-friendly products and processes and in 2015, ethical spending rose by 8% to £38 billion as consumers moved towards green alternatives. The fashion industry, including shoe production, is widely known as the second highest polluter in the world, after oil. As more businesses take a sustainable and eco-friendly approach in reaction to ever-growing concerns about our environment, can we really change the face of production? Adidas may have found the answer.

Changing Production Methods

Big offenders of pollution and ocean dumping are large corporations, but Adidas is working on changing that. Their most recent foray into sustainable approaches to production involves eventually cutting virgin plastic from supply chains entirely. Since plastic is a key material in the shoe industry, their work comes as a welcome shock and is a potentially game changing decision. The question is, how exactly are they going to do this? Creative collaboration is the answer, working with Parley, an environmental organisation concerned with the protection of ocean life; Adidas has created a 3D printed shoe using only recycled plastic that has been removed from the ocean.  They are literally spinning the problem into a solution. Parley’s ethos is centred on A.I.R.: Avoid, Intercept and Redesign; a vision which they have been able to manifest with Adidas. We “need to find ways to synchronize the economic system of humankind with the ecosystem of nature”, Parley has stated.

Flickr | David SchiersnerMaking it Mainstream

We know the process works because the Adidas X Parley trainer was released as a limited edition late last year. This year, an even bigger step is being taken- making the shoe a regular appearance on the shelves. Now, the question is this a replicable method of production throughout the market?

The answer fortunately seems to be a yes. As the second highest selling sports brand in the USA and the third highest in the world, Adidas has some serious influence. A small start-up has managed to duplicate the process and have proved that the costs of making shoes this way are not overwhelmingly impossible, and there is still profit in it. The company, Rothy’s, got off to a good start as their products sold well, resulting in them being able to raise 7 million dollars in funding. Thirty percent of materials usually end up as waste in traditional manufacturing shoe processing but the company has managed to eliminate that by using plastic bottles. The bottles are turned into thin plastic fibres which are then fed into a 3D knitting machine to create a shoe, all in 6 minutes. Along with the recyclability of the shoe, the sole is earth-friendly and carbon free.

Flickr | TEIA
It looks like we will be able to turn threat into thread.

By Hanna-Johara Dokal - Online Journalism Intern

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