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Material science company Balena unveils biodegradable footwear

By Danielle Wightman-Stone


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Image: Balena

Material science company Balena, with offices in Tel Aviv and Milan, has unveiled cinnamon-scented slides created with 100 percent biodegradable elastomer to demonstrate its new sustainable technology.

The footwear is made from what Balena calls its “game-changing, fully compostable and biodegradable material,” which aims to offer durable, flexible and sustainable alternatives to plastics in fashion.

Balena’s BioCir marks the first fully mouldable, biodegradable elastomer developed to provide the fashion industry with an alternative to using plastic. The proprietary material consists of up to 60 percent bio-based content and the 100 percent compostable plastic is durable, flexible, soft, and smooth.

Image: Balena

The material’s composition makes it the “perfect alternative to current polluting shoe materials,” notes Balena, as it allows brands to develop footwear identical in look and feel to their current products.

The biodegradable material can be treated like any other and can be used in regular injection moulding processes as well as 3D printing. It can also be integrated into regular manufacturing processes "with ease," adds the start-up, and replicated at scale globally, reducing a significant barrier to entry for manufacturers.

Balena demonstrates the potential of its BioCir technology with 100 percent biodegradable footwear

To demonstrate the potential of the technology, Balena has created fully compostable slides for both men and women, designed and manufactured in Italy and made entirely of BioCir. Described as durable and comfortable, the slides have been distributed to thousands of wearers in Tel Aviv.

Image: Balena

As part of the debut, Balena has introduced a fully circular system, BioCycling that facilitates the disposal and complete biodegradation of its BioCir slides in an industrial compost environment. Once a customer has finished using the slides, instead of them going to landfill they can return them to designated take-back spots throughout the city where they are collected for full biodegradation at a local industrial compost facility. Balena adds that this circularity model can be replicated around the world.

David Roubach, founder and chief executive of Balena, said in a statement: “The global fashion industry is one of the world’s biggest polluters. At Balena, 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.”

Image: Balena