A "familiar" startup has designed children's shoes that melt in water when the foot gets too big to wear. The fabric of the shoe is made up of a kind of water-soluble plastic (the same that covers the capsules of drugs, some bags, or detergents for washing machines and dishwashers, so to speak) but is designed to "withstand" the growth of two children.
Woolybubs, the shoe that does its job and goes away
Jesse Milliken and his wife Meghan they did not focus first on the eco-sustainability of their children's shoes, but on their resistance. Ok the material, but children, especially small ones, sometimes even chew a shoe: they couldn't risk it melting in their mouth. For this reason, they assure them, shoes do their job very well, and will only biodegrade when they are really no longer needed.
The garbage generated by the textile and fashion industry is serious and occurs mainly in children's clothing from infancy to kindergarten, when the clothes have an expiration date guaranteed by the physical growth of the child. As many as 300 million pairs of children's shoes end up in landfills every year. Each pair takes 40 years to decompose. This reflection, as simple as it is merciless, gave birth to Woolybubs.
“Soluble” children's shoes: a year of study, many years of walking
“It took nearly a year to develop this fabric that was strong enough,” says Milliken. "It's a bit ironic to use the word 'durable' for children, who change so quickly: let's say the shoe is tough enough to last and withstand what is needed, only to break and degrade under the right conditions."
The material, to the touch similar to silk, uses polyvinyl alcohol or (PVA), a biodegradable and water-soluble plastic in each component: it dissolves completely in boiling water. Meaning what? Does it disappear? Does it become NOTHING?
On this we must be clear, and tell ourselves that the situation ... is not clear. Some researchers say the result is a solution that would likely require more work to filter out some of its components, and our wastewater plants are not all equipped to handle this eventual "flow of dissolved plastic." Other researchers have instead presented studies showing its complete dissolution in wastewater, leaving nothing harmful in its wake.
As responsible parents, the Millikens commissioned an ad hoc study of the PVA used by their children's shoes.
Waiting to understand if their shoe can be "flushed down the toilet" (joke) or simply sent to the company that will compost it, a round of applause for the idea, and fingers crossed for its feasibility.