I often get asked “Why can’t I recycle __________? It’s made mostly from [aluminum/glass/plastic]. It’s even got a recycling symbol on it.” The answer, almost inevitably, comes down the word “mostly” appearing in the second sentence – products made from a mix of materials can be very difficult to break down into “pure” plastic, glass, aluminum, and other materials that recyclers can handle.
Now take a look at your shoes, and take a guess at how many different kinds of materials are present. It can be as many as 60, meaning this particular product can really only be downcycled into playing courts or fuel. If you could make a shoe from a single material, you might be able to just toss it into your recycling bin with your other materials – no disassembly required! But that’s not possible… right?
Ammo Liao thinks it is, and developed the Bio-Knit shoe concept as a student at London’s Royal College of Art. He approached the task of making a shoe not from a traditional manufacturing perspective, but, rather, from a biomimicry approach. Liao observed that nature doesn’t necessarily create tons of different materials for different purposes; rather, a single material can be adjusted though the application of heat, pressure, or other inputs into something that meets a specific need. And, of course, nothing in the natural world gets wasted: waste becomes food.
With that mindset in place, Liao knitted the upper of the shoes from a polymer yarn, and then created inners and soles by playing with that knitted material. The result is a lightweight shoe made from a single material.
If you think this is just an academic exercise, think again: major shoe companies like Adidas and Nike are experimenting with knitting for a variety of purposes… perhaps this will hit their radar.
Watch the video above, which takes you through the process of making the Bio-Knit shoe, and then let us know what you think.
Image credit: Screen capture from Bio-Knit video