The green revolution continues: an algae-based plastic that degrades in 9 months has been invented

A company has invented a new type of biodegradable plastic and is using it to produce eco-friendly footwear.

Blueview Footwear has Tom Cooke, a surfer disillusioned with the amount of plastic found in the world’s seas and oceans, as its president. Before launching his own business, he worked for Reef and Vans.

The plastic used by the startup was invented by Stephen Mayfield, CEO of Blueview and professor of molecular biology at UC San Diego.

The new material is based on oil extracted from algae. Conventional plastic is based on oil, which also comes from algae that died tens of millions of years ago. “It was like this… plastic comes from oil. Oil comes from algae. Let’s make plastic directly from algae,” Mayfield said.

According to him, the inventors of plastic could have made it biodegradable from the start, but they wanted the material to be more durable and didn’t imagine what a big problem it would be 70 years from now. Today, microplastics are even found in human organs.

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Plastic is considered by many experts to be the most dangerous material ever created by man. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Footwear produced by Blueview Footwear completely degrades, if composted or buried in soil, within nine months. In the ocean, it can take two years for the material to degrade.

Plastic recycling, a beautiful dream?

Such materials are sorely needed. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), only 5% of plastic from U.S. households is recycled. This has led some experts to say plastic recycling “is a myth” or “a failure”.

Also read: WEF: We know that plastic pollution is extremely serious, but how exactly is it related to climate change?

Mayfield agrees. The many different kinds of plastic, contaminated with various substances and food-soiled, make recycling very difficult or impossible, says the professor.

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“Let’s say you had a plastic water bottle and it cost you a penny to produce it. Then you put Coke in it. You have to wash the bottle before you recycle it, and the operation will cost a lot more than a cent. That’s why (plastic) recycling never works,” he said.

Christophe Schilling, CEO of Geno, a company that also produces plant-based plastic, but not as environmentally friendly as the one invented by Blueview, says the material can be recycled, but the use of the same type must be enforced. He doesn’t think the highly durable plastic used in electronics, computers or cars will be replaced any time soon.

Mayfield also admits he would never build the hull of a boat out of biodegradable plastic. “But it’s silly to put plastic that lasts 1,000 years into a car that could last 20 years,” he said.

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