Combatting ocean plastic with … flip flops?

Okay, I know. You probably read the title of this post and thought to yourself something along the lines of ‘what in the actual hell,’ and quite honestly, I don’t blame you. This isn’t exactly something you hear about every day, but I’m certainly glad I did thanks to an article from The Good News Network.

“A lot of entrepreneurial energy has been thrown into using algae as a replacement for petroleum-based plastics in the creation of consumer goods, and now some California researchers have applied this technology to one of the ocean’s greatest polluting burdens—flip flops.

“The world’s most popular shoe, the flip flop accounts for a huge amount of plastic waste that ends up in the ocean: Some models have suggested they account for a quarter of all plastic in our seas.

“UC San Diego partnered with the startup company Algenesis Materials to produce a commercial grade polyurethane foam from algae oil to create a sturdy flip flop that will biodegrade in around 16 weeks.

“With a biomass content of around 52%, the flip flops are still entirely biodegradable, but that hasn’t stopped the collaboration from looking to create a 100% biomass shoe,” the article explains.

As for whether or not flip flops can properly decompose?

“In testing to see whether or not the polyurethane algae flip flops would degrade, Steven Mayfield, professor of biology at UC San Diego, and his team buried them in compost and normal soil.

“Having discovered the 16-week decomposition time frame, Mayfield et al. also discovered that the varieties of bacteria and other microorganisms that were working to break down the shoe left parts of it intact in a way that would allow them to be reused,” the article says.

I didn’t ever think I would see an initiative involving flip flips to battle the amount of plastic in the oceans, but here we are, and I think it’s pretty damn amazing.

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