Technology

Wow! The world's first biodegradable trainer company just launched - and they rock!

Plastic-free shoes look great and leave no trace

Sick of plastic pollution and the ongoing harm being done to the natural world, surfer and ocean advocate, Ed Temperley, decided to do something about it. With his partner Damian Quinn they created WAES Footwear. Their mission is to help people walk a little lighter by creating shoes that will not remain in nature for hundreds of years after they have been useful for someone’s feet.

These great looking, comfortable shoes do everything that normal footwear does but they biologically break down after use minimising their impact on nature.

Ecohustler got in touch with Ed at Waes to find out more...

Ed - thank you for your time. Fill us in… what are these shoes?

Plastic-free and biodegradable sneakers which are, comfortable, durable, and ultimately compostable. But they are desirable (we think at least) as not everyone wants to shout 'eco shoe alert' when they are walking around. Some people want to look good and know that under the skin their shoes are made from biodegradable materials.

Check out the Waes crowdfunder here and claim your awesome early bird perks

What is good about them?

We believe there is a better way of making shoes. One which promotes tree planting and works in partnership with the natural carbon cycle. Our ambition is to change the way shoes are manufactured, to prove our way is economically viable so it can provide a blueprint for other manufacturers to follow.

Our main difference is simply that our shoes are designed to be disposed of easily after a long and useful life. We set out to produce a shoe which looked amazing but left a minimal impact, and then we wanted to make it affordable. We managed on the first two and we are keeping the costs as low as we can. Turns out using really expensive materials doesn’t come cheap, even with our direct model which cuts out the middle-man. Also a percentage the revenue from each shoe goes directly to helping clean up our beaches and plant mangroves forests.

What is the problem with normal shoes?

We all need shoes but most current shoe design assumes we can continue producing petrochemical based goods which have to be landfilled or incinerated indefinitely. Look at your feet, if you are wearing sneakers, or almost any shoe, you’ll see a colourful and complicated plastic matrix, or at best organic matter coated in plastic – rendering it impossible to ever untangle them for recycling or composting.

And during everyday life, as we walk around, those plastic soles wear down and produce virgin microplastics which are directly injected into the air, water and soil. Investigations into the sources of micro plastics is only just really kicking-off and when you think about that small section of your shoe sole which wears down, what does that matter? Unfortunately, it turns out that it does matter when you extrapolate it across the global population.

How do normal shoes impact the natural world?

We’ve been working with some amazing scientists at The Fraunhofer Institute who have calculated that 109 grams of microplastics are scuffed from the soles of every person, per year in Germany. They claim its the 7th largest source of environmental microplastics and it’s not hard science to believe as we all see our shoe soles wearing down.

Shoe sole erosion is something we don’t even think about. But if I gave you a big handful of microplastics and told you to chuck it in the ocean you’d think I was crazy. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! There are more than 20 billion pairs of plastic-based shoes produced each year, enough to circle the world 300 times. And most of it goes straight to landfill, incineration, left on the beach, or discarded in some other way. It’s amazing how many pairs of shoes we find on beach cleans.

Our shoe sole are made from 100% rubber tree sap, which sounds obvious, but there’s only one method for producing these soles without injecting large amounts of plastic alongside the rubber. It takes more than a week to produce a workable shoe sole in our factory in France. And it's really worth it even without the environmental benefits. These things are so so supple and provide the natural plastic-free foundation for us to construct the rest of the shoe.

Check out the Waes crowdfunder here and claim your awesome early bird perks

How are your shoes environmentally friendly?

I honestly think they are some of the greenest shoes out there. Nothing gets greener than an unvarnished clog but aside from that, and a shoe I saw Native make which uses similar materials to our vegan Hope model, this is about as good as it gets for shoe making.

We believe there is a better way of making shoes. One which promotes tree planting and works in partnership with the natural carbon cycle. Our ambition is to change the way shoes are manufactured, to prove our way is economically viable so it can provide a blueprint for other manufacturers to follow.

✔️biodegradable ⁠
✔️hand-poured rubber sole⁠
✔️no compromises on people or the environment ⁠

Is anyone sexy / cool wearing them?

We are! But if you mean anyone who's not a late thirties dad whose chances of winning the world surfing championships is nearly gone - well then we have some really inspirational watermen and women and ethical fashionistas who have agreed to come on board.

Who are the founders?

A hobbit from the Somerset wetlands and a beaky looking fella from Cambridge who both think there's a better way to be. Fundamentally, Damian and I (my business partner), were fed-up with working for companies who couldn’t care less about the environment but, who used a little eco chat to sell their goods. And it’s the combination of Damian’s understanding of shoe construction and my bloody-mindedness that we could find or develop alternatives to the industry standard plastic glues and threads that’s sign-posted our journey.

Find out more - waes.co

Check out the Waes crowdfunder here and claim your awesome early bird perks

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