Could your footwear be an ally in the fight against plastic pollution?

In our article series we introduce different environmental challenges and potential solutions offered by the .wave start-ups. In the first issue we asked Ben from Effect Footwear about how shoes can mitigate plastic pollution!

Ben, founder of the Effekt Footwear is one of the 7 committed and innovative start-ups who are participating in the 2nd cohort of the .wave. The accelerator program provides intensive training sessions in various topics along with mentorship, a team building bootcamp and other networking opportunities so the participants could grow their ecosystem with environmental sustainability being at the core of their principles.

Delusive fashion industry

What you buy and wear impacts the environment. The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world; it is responsible for 8-10% of global CO2 output, uses toxic chemicals and it is the 3rd largest water consumer. On top of that, it is responsible for 20% of the world’s plastic production.

Plastic appears everywhere along the textiles industry value chain. Buttons, jeans waists, flitters, accessories and the excessive amount of plastic packaging to distribute the final product. 69% of clothes are made up from synthetic fibres and polyester is the most common one.

But how can fashion be a tool for environmental protection?

“The fashion industry consumes massive amounts of resources, but we at Effekt Footwear take a different approach. We have created our sneakers from 90% recycled materials including ocean plastic, recycled textiles and recycled rubber. All materials are sourced as close to the point of manufacturing as possible. The result is a minimalist sneaker, one that doesn’t follow trends and can be worn with multiple outfits. We are looking at the end of the supply chain and working our way backwards to identify and reduce negative impacts on the environment. Our materials are selected based on our criteria to reduce dependence on virgin materials.– shared Ben, founder of Effekt Footwear.

“…plastic keeps polluting the environment long after their production.”

The textile production consumes 1.35% of global oil production that accounts for more oil than Spain uses in a year. Already the plastic production puts significant challenges to the environment and they keep polluting long after their production. When washing your clothes microfibers are transferred into our waters because these fibres cannot be filtered in sewage plants. Later on, rivers transport waste materials into the ocean, resulting in 80% of ocean plastic originating from lands harming the flora, fauna and ultimately, us humans. To protect our water resources and for the sake of our own health, we have to keep plastic out of the system as much as possible.

Another pressure

Media and marketing campaigns encourage people to buy more, be up-to-date in fashion and throw away what they bought a few weeks ago because the latest trend is coming. 

“Did you know  that fast fashion brands create twice the volume of clothing they produced in 2000, with most of that growth coming from clothes using plastic-based fibres?”

In the past years, more and more brands have turned to the so-called eco-friendly alternatives but to be frank, they create another problem that is hard to spot: greenwashing. Watch out; recycled and sustainable are not the same.

It is your choice

Currently, there is no overarching solution that would solve the fashion industry’s complex plastic problem as it is one of the most lightly regulated sectors in the world. Nevertheless, our behaviour and choice can be the first step to make a difference.

As Ben added: “Effekt is working to surpass trends, although I think that not being on trend will soon become a trend adopted by the fast fashion industry. We make our sneakers to be neutral in colour and style and can be worn by everyone. Every sneakers helps divert waste from landfill and cleans plastic from the ocean. It is our hope that we can help create demand for recycled materials, bring value to their use and encourage more people to use them in their products.” 

.wave aims to gather those businesses who are determined to solve certain environmental challenges, like plastic pollution. We asked Ben, what were his expectations when he joined the program and how he sees his development from a 3-month perspective.”

As can sometimes happen while surfing, a big wave came up out of nowhere, and this was no exception. One of the organisers of .wave approached me on social media, interviewed me and finally I have been selected as a participant. Besides the workshops, trainings we had direct access to people who have shared their real world experiences and knowledge and could tow us into the oncoming wave to ensure we catch it at the right moment. I have learned more about the investment process and what is expected when reaching out and pitching to investors. The importance of story has been a topic of interest and I have learned a great deal about structuring this into a compelling pitch. With all that I have learned over the past months, I am confident that I am ready to take my startup to the next level, knowing that I also have a network of people at my back who are also committed to my future success.”

“Honestly, this is exactly what I needed at this point in my startup and the timing couldn’t have been any more perfect! ”

.wave is finishing up its second cohort with a group of inspirational and outstanding teams! As the third wave of the program will start next year we were curious what Ben would say to those who are interested in applying for the program?

“Do not hesitate. Just when surfing, if you catch the .wave too late, there is a chance you will wipe out, or completely miss the ride. Take the plunge and go into the program with an open mind and a willingness to learn. It will be the ride of your life!” – he concluded.