World’s first compostable footwear marries fashion and sustainability

The shoes only decompose when coming into contact with specific chemicals.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Balena's new footwear is compostable.jpg
Balena's new footwear is compostable.

Balena/YouTube 

There's no doubt that our planet has a garbage problem. Our landfills are filling up with waste, and plastic is a big problem.

Now, one Israeli startup called Balena is seeking to do something about it. The company refers to itself as a material science firm and has produced the world's first fully compostable footwear, according to a report by NoCamels published Thursday.

It all has to do with a pioneering plastic called BioCir that maintains its shape until it's exposed to the specific bacteria and conditions of a compost facility.

This means the plastic does not melt while its user is still wearing it.

Balena has already put to market 1,000 pairs of men's and women's BioCir slides, complete with a cinnamon scent, in Tel Aviv. It's also assigned designated take-back spots for when the shoes wear out.

The future of sustainable fashion

"When we look at the future of sustainability, it is clear that recycling alone is not solving the problem, the direction needs to turn towards a circular economy model," David Roubach, CEO of Balena, told NoCamels.

"The world's addiction to fast fashion has generated an estimate of 92 million tons of textile waste each year, and just 12 percent of the material used for clothing is recycled."

Roubah says their product was inspired by nature herself.

"We've turned to the Earth's natural cycles for answers," said Roubach. "We need to transition from traditional mechanical recycling, where we melt the product and try to make another product, to a method called biological recycling. 

"This renewable concept draws on the example of plants and trees. Nature eventually decomposes and returns to its starting state to begin the cycle again. This phenomenon is the vision for Balena."

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Taking the startup to the next level

Now the CEO has ambitious plans to take his new technology and company to the next level.

"Our aim goes beyond being just another niche or one-time project," said Roubach. "With an affordable and scalable proof of concept, we are hoping the compostable materials that enabled the BioCir slide will eventually replace the polluting plastic in the fashion industry."

"In the beginning it was a challenge figuring out our idea, being a minority player in the high-tech world of Israeli startups," added Roubach.

Balena has ambitious goals to help pave the way for a greener more sustainable future.

"Now, climate tech and sustainable startups are gaining momentum, which means something is changing. Israel is aligning its focus in the right direction, and I am proud to be a part of that," concluded Roubah.

With people no longer willing to turn a blind eye to the fashion industry's high carbon footprint, Roubah's invention could not come at a better time. The company's future initiatives are bound to garner even more attention.

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