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Biodegradable Footwear: One Big Step for Sustainability

When it comes to sustainability, material science company Balena is walking the walk.

Geoff Giordano

December 7, 2022

Based in Tel Aviv and founded in 2020, Balena has taken a giant step toward stomping out plastic waste with its 100% biodegradable — not to mention cinnamon-scented — BioCir Slides, made of the company’s new BioCir elastomer.

BioCir offers the fashion industry a fully compostable and biodegradable alternative to currently used plastics. The material is made to seamlessly substitute for the durable, flexible, soft, and smooth materials that footwear companies depend on. BioCir can be injection molded or 3D printed and scaled in production like traditional materials.

The slides, colored and scented using natural cinnamon, are designed and manufactured in Italy; the first 1,000 pairs made their debut in Tel Aviv. The accompanying video shows first adopters putting the shoes through their paces in various activities, including biking.

BioCir Slides, the company said, are the ultimate proof of concept for a material that can begin to counteract the estimated 92 million tons of textile waste created annually. Just 12% of that material is recycled, the company added.

“The global fashion industry is one of the world’s biggest polluters,” asserted David Roubach, Balena founder and CEO. “Our goal is to help turn this around. We’re doing this by creating our own viable biodegradable plastic alternatives and fully circular systems that can be easily scaled, and copied and pasted across the globe. We hope our BioCir footwear shows the world that there is a real alternative: Fashion can be fabulous, functional, and Earth-friendly. We’re proud to be the company opening the door for any fashion brand to start stepping into a more circular future,” said Roubach.

BioCir Slides are meant to be collected for full biodegradation. Launched with the shoes is Balena’s BioCycling model, whereby customers who have finished using their BioCir Slides can return them to designated locations throughout the city for composting at a local facility.

Once collected, the shoes are shredded and buried in composting soil, the launch video explains. The remnants will fully biodegrade in a “few months.” The video also touts potential future uses for the material, including more stylish sneakers and boots and an intricate watch band.

About the Author(s)

Geoff Giordano

Geoff Giordano is a tech journalist with more than 30 years’ experience in all facets of publishing. He has reported extensively on the gamut of plastics manufacturing technologies and issues, including 3D printing materials and methods; injection, blow, micro and rotomolding; additives, colorants and nanomodifiers; blown and cast films; packaging; thermoforming; tooling; ancillary equipment; and the circular economy. Contact him at [email protected].

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