Friday, May 24, 2024

Shoe Brands Turning Upcycled Materials Into Footwear


These leading shoe companies are tackling the planet’s waste problem by upcycling trash into sustainable shoes.

Let’s talk trash. No, not hot goss — we mean garbage. The average American generates about five pounds of it each day, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Multiply that by the more than 330 million citizens residing in the U.S. and you’ve got yourself a bona fide waste crisis. 

So, where does all of the waste go? Well, there are various outlets for waste disposal, which vary depending on what part of the country you’re in. The most popular destination for trash is landfills, which are designed to store waste — not break it down. Rubbish stored in landfills can produce toxins that leach into the surrounding environment, polluting the soil and groundwater. Decaying trash can also generate greenhouse gasses, such as methane and carbon dioxide.

garbage climate change
Photo courtesy Jilbert Ebrahimi

Other outlets for waste include waste-to-energy centers, which convert solid waste to energy via combustion, and recycling plants. But not all of what’s designated as recycling gets recycled. Only certain plastic products like water and soda bottles — not plastic utensils and straws — can be recycled. And other items like food containers can’t be recycled if they have traces of food residue on them. The U.S. also ships its waste to developing countries, even though many have refused to accept it. 

Give your trash a new lease on life

Looking to reduce the amount of waste you generate? Try giving it away. After all, one man’s trash is another person’s treasure.

There are several groups that work to connect people who are looking to give items away. “Buy less and share more. It makes us all richer and the planet cleaner,” is the Buy Nothing Project’s motto. Founded in 2013, the network of community-based groups encourages the “giving (or recycling) of consumer goods and services (called “gifts of self”) in preference to conventional commerce.”

Freecycle is a similar platform aimed at connecting people who are giving away items for free. Or better yet, look for ways to reuse your trash in the home or garden, and commit to going zero-waste wherever possible to reduce the amount of trash you create in the first place.

Companies turning trash into treasure

To curb the sheer amount of waste piling up in landfills, brands like Ikea and Lululemon have launched resell programs, allowing customers to trade in their used items. Companies are also taking a more innovative approach to the planet’s waste crisis. They’re getting creative — turning trash into shoes.

Rothy's shoes
Rothy’s shoes | Courtesy

1. Rothy’s

From bottles to bags — want to help tackle the planet’s plastic waste problem? Try wearing it. This apparel brand carries a variety of shoes and bags, including totes and clutches, made from recycled plastic bottles and post-consumer recycled materials. The company launched its own pilot recycling program in 2021 and has committed to achieving circular production by 2023. As of 2020, Rothy’s has repurposed more than 50 million water bottles, reports Forbes

Nike shoe from trash

2. Nike

In 2020, sportswear giant Nike launched a shoe collection inspired by life on Mars. Made from recycled trash, the line of vegan sneakers has one of the lowest carbon footprints compared to the brand’s other collections, according to Nike. The shoes are comprised of recycled materials, including plastic bottles and t-shirts.

Cariuma shoe

3. Cariuma

Made with ocean-bound recycled plastic, Cariuma prioritizes upcycled, natural, and bio-based materials. “Infinite wisdom is woven into the fabric of our natural world. There is much to learn from the cycles of the seasons and the shifts that they bring for the planet – and us,” the company writes on its site. Plus, for every pair you purchase, the company will plant two trees.


4. Balenciaga

The Balenciaga Speed 2.0 Lace-Up Graffiti Recycled Knit Sneakers are handmade in Italy with upcycled plastic mesh knit and rubber. The sneakers are part of the luxury label’s commitment to introducing more sustainable materials and practices.

stella mccartney adidas

5. Stella McCartney x Adidas

From longtime partners Stella McCartney and Adidas, a stylish sneaker made from 100 percent recycled polyester ocean plastic. Both labels have been steadfast in their commitments to reduce their carbon footprints and increase their use of renewable and recyclable materials.

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