Heeling Landfills, One Shoe at a Time

Shelby Rogers

No need to try and resell smelly, worn-out shoes anymore! Two companies joined forces to create a 3D-printed compostable shoe.

Dutch footwear company SLEM and the 3D-printing startup BioInspiration look to make active footwear for socially conscious buyers.

The shoes are made out of an odor-free non-GMO cornstarch material called WillowFlex. BioInspiration engineered the material to degrade at 90 percent in six months. The company works with natural, locally grown material to produce polymers, resins and compounds.

SLEM, short for Shoes, Leather, Education, Museum, wants to provide unique opportunities for innovators. The company wants to both serve as a manufacturer and educator for its employees.

3D-printed shoes are certainly not new. New Balance used the technology for a limited run of 3D-printed sneakers with the Zante Generate. However, this shoe would be the first biodegradable sneaker on the market.

Of the 20 billion pairs of shoes produced each year, 300 million pairs end up in landfills. And those expensive soles from worn-out running shoes? They can take up to 1,000 years to degrade in landfills thanks to its ethylene vinyl acetate. Most running shoes have a lifespan between 200 to 500 miles depending on its owner's usage.

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