The Guardian released an article titled : The footwear industry is taking steps towards Sustainability and Lyf Shoes is prominent in the article.
What happens to shoes at the end of their useful lives. Leather poses a problem to landfill sites because of the harmful chemicals used in the tanning process. Some of the glues used in production are also hazardous, containing volatile organic compounds like toluene and benzene. Biodegradable materials such as leather and wood also produce methane, a greenhouse gas, if they are allowed to compost in landfill.
Trainers can contain leather, rubber, foam, textile, metal and other materials, which are hard to separate. Rahimifard’s team have designed machines that break shoes into small pieces and separate different materials so they can be reused as building materials, but he accepts this is not a perfect solution. “The footwear materials are downcycled rather than recycled. It’s better than sending it to landfill but the quality is poorer than when we started.”
Designers are central to solving this problem. Leila Sheldrick, also of the Centre for Smart explains: “The initial conceptual stages of design have been shown to account for up to three quarters of the environmental impact of the final products. As well as technical innovation they also need to make eco-friendly shoes look good and appeal to customers.”
One designer determined to tackle these challenges is Aly Khalifa. His LYF (Love your Footprint) shoe can be taken apart and remade without losing quality. Inspired by Japanese Shinto temples that can be taken apart and moved, the LYF shoe is made of pieces that slot together a bit like Lego, without the need for glue. “To be truly sustainable you have to design for disassembly. If you put glue into the mix you cause problems in the reuse,” he says.
The company is about to launch a funding bid to produce LYF shoes commercially with a goal to set up local assembly points that produce modular custom-fit shoes. Customers will design or choose a fabric upper while the foot bed will be made from recycled cork from wine bottles. The sole and heel are clipped together and held in place until the customer wants a different fabric or needs a new heel.