Native Shoes creates trainers from single piece of algae-laced foam

[USA] US brand Native Shoes has developed a sneaker that is entirely made from one continuous sheet of algae-enriched EVA in a bid to clean up the footwear industry.

EVA, short for ethylene-vinyl acetate, is a flexible, rubber-like plastic often used to form the cushioning midsole of trainers or, as in the case of Crocs, even the whole shoe.

In this design, 10 per cent of it is replaced with Bloom foam, which is made from repurposed algae taken from waterways, though the remainder is plastic.

“Replacing even this amount of the EVA with Bloom cleans 80 litres of water per pair, and keeps 15 balloons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere in comparison with a pair made up of 100 per cent EVA,” explained Native Shoes’ design and development manager Gabe Lam.

That’s because, to create the material, the eponymous company behind Bloom takes algae out of fresh water waterways, where according to the company it is present in epidemic levels duo to the global temperature rise.

“Specially engineered water tanks filter up to 662 litres of algae-polluted water per minute through its mechanism, while also netting around 140 kilograms of algae in a single day,” Lam told Dezeen.

“Healthy algae consumes and captures CO2. Bloom harvests and processes the algae, sequestering the CO2, which also allows for new algae to grow and capture more CO2.”

The clean, filtered water is released back into the environment, while the algae is dried into a biomass and formed into palettes which are eventually expanded into a foam and passed on to Native Shoes to turn into footwear.

“For Jefferson Bloom, we use a one-piece injection mould, which allows us to create the entire shoe, including upper, midsole and outsole from a single compound which is a combination of Bloom and EVA,” said Lam.

“To our knowledge, we’re the first brand to incorporate this material throughout the entire construction of a product.”

The result maintains many of the same properties of the original Native Jefferson trainer, which is made from rubber and EVA.

That means it is durable, water resistant and easily washable. And, once it reaches the end of its life, the product can be recycled using Native Shoes’ Remix Project.

“Using a regrind process, we are able to break down the materials found in every style of our shoes including sandals, slip-ons, knit sneakers and boots,” said Lam.

“They can be reground into a versatile material that is useful for example in the creation of seating, playground flooring and insulation. ”

The first playground with flooring created through the Remix Project is scheduled to open this year.


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