We all know that the world’s most beloved footwear are flip-flops. But did you know that also because of their popularity, they’re one of the worst pollutants in our oceans today?
Estimates from a conservation group show that about 90 tons of discarded flip-flops are carried to the shores of East Africa alone. Because of this, a team of researchers from the University of California San Diego sought possible alternatives to the non-recyclable plastic flip-flops.
The research, done in collaboration with a materials science and technology company and published in the Bioresource Technology Reports, is the latest in a series of studies that provide a 360-degree solution to the problem of non-biodegradable polyurethanes that are commonly used in flip-flops.
After devising the right formulation, the team was able to develop commercial-quality polyurethane foams made from algae oil that can be used for midsole shoes and the footbed of flip-flops. The redeveloped polyurethanes were put to the test using traditional compost and soil, and the researchers found that the materials were able to degrade in just 16 weeks.
With the success of their research, the team is now looking into making these materials commercially available by talking to their manufacturing partners. They were also able to establish a center for renewable materials at UC San Diego, with the goal of developing more renewable and sustainable materials and their subsequent application to everyday products.
We stan algae-based, biodegradable flip-flops!