4 Sep 2017 - I’ve been sceptical about the power of running shoes to affect global change. So naturally I had it in for UltraBoost Uncaged Parley, Adidas trainers that claim to make peace with the ocean. The shoe’s upper is created from plastic waste retrieved from a clean-up operation in the Maldives, and recycled polyester. But Adidas has committed to producing a million pairs of these ocean waste running shoes, and a swimwear line.
Meanwhile, Spanish clothing company Ecoalf works with 2,000 Spanish fishermen who collect 4-5kg of deep-sea plastic waste alongside their daily catch, to be spun into new yarn. And we can look forward to seeing the fabric Econyl on labels in the future (regenerated from fishing nets and second-hand carpets) in Italy, as it becomes mainstream.
New Zealand flip-flops company Subs grinds up plastic waste from beach cleans, but also upcycles old shoes so that materials can be sustained indefinitely. Every pair of flip-flops removes 0.52kg of plastic from the sea. That is, it has to be said, a very small dent on the 12.7m tonnes of plastic entering the ocean each year. I also worry about the effectiveness of scooping ocean waste from the surface, given that average ocean depth is 1.2km.
But a recent report analysing all mass-produced plastics has reassured me. It tells us that almost all plastic ever created still exists in some form. So most of the ideas we’ve had to get rid of it have failed, spectacularly.
Innovation with huge global appeal is therefore pretty critical. The level of innovation here is also impressive: regenerating marine debris degraded by the sun and wind and ocean currents is no mean feat. Nor is taking a resource of no value and turning it into something so desired that fishing fleets could use it to supplement their income.
The big picture: navigating the Arctic melting pot
It was the record nobody wanted: Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica took just 24 days to travel 6,215 miles from Alaska to Greenland, sailing through the Northwest Passage to arrive on 29 July, earlier than ever before. The timings of the voyage were made possible by the fact that Arctic ice melts earlier each year. The voyage and the great melt were experienced and documented by a crew of scientific researchers.