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Flip Flops

Would you have guessed it's the world's most popular shoe? The problem is that they tend to be made of plastic and are commonly used for short periods, then discarded after a few uses due to flimsy materials.

The bad news is that once discarded, flip flops take hundreds of years to decompose and can enter the oceans, killing marine life and contaminating water supplies. The good news is that scientists have succeeded in developing biodegradable flip flops made from algae to help reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up on seashores, in dumps and in the oceans. The experts created polyurethane foams, made from algae oil, to meet commercial specifications for flip flops and other footwear usually made from flexible plastic. As well as cushioning the midsole section of the shoes, this commercial-grade foam degrades in compost and soil after 16 weeks, meaning it would break down if it drifted into the ocean. 

"The life of material should be proportional to the life of the product - we don’t need material that sits around for 500 years on a product that you will only use for a year or two," said Stephen Mayfield at the University of California San Diego. "We have commercial-quality foams that biodegrade in the natural environment. After hundreds of formulations, we finally achieved one that met commercial specifications."

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