Scientists make biodegradable shoes that sea creatures can eat !

Scientists have developed shoes that biodegrade in seawater enough for sea creatures to eat them. They say replacing plastics could reverse the pollution that has plagued the world’s oceans by degrading enough to be consumed by marine life.

Shoes are an important focus – shoes make up a large proportion of the plastic waste in the world’s water and landfills, and slippers made of plastic are the world’s most popular footwear.

Currently, the plastics that pollute our seas never degrade, and instead break down into smaller particles until they become microplastics that live for centuries.

Detail of Kristel Peters’ ‘growth shoes’ made of mycelium and gauze biodegradable fungal materials, part of a new exhibition titled ‘Mushrooms: The Art, Design and Future of Fungi’ during the reopening of Somerset House on July 16, 2020, in London, England . Shoes make up a large proportion of the world’s plastic waste and landfills
Getty Images / Tim P. Whitby

But a multidisciplinary team at the University of California San Diego has created materials that begin to degrade after just four weeks. “There is no single system that can address these global environmental problems, but we have developed an integrated solution that works on land — and now we also know biodegradation in the ocean,” said Stephen Mayfield, a biologist at the University of California, San Diego, who worked on the study. Mayfield is also the CEO of Blueview sneakers.

To test their new creativity in the water, the group gathered in an aquarium with marine biologist and science submarine Samantha Clements at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

They took the biodegradable polyurethane they had previously developed to biodegrade into ground compost — which had already been made into the first biodegradable shoes.

The group detected all types of colonized marine organisms on polyurethane foam and biodegraded the material into its original chemicals, which are then consumed as nutrients by the same microorganisms in the ocean.

“I was surprised to see how many organisms colonize these foams in the ocean. They become something like microbial corals,” Mayfield added.

“The plastic shouldn’t go into the ocean in the first place, but if it does, that substance becomes food for microorganisms and not plastic litter and microplastics that are harmful to aquatic life.”

A group of experts from biology, polymer science, synthetic chemistry and marine science tracked the samples and found that the material began to degrade after just four weeks at sea.

Plastic garbage dumped on the shore of the Aegean Sea near Athens on June 26, 2018, Greece. The Mediterranean Sea is one of the seas with the highest levels of plastic pollution in the world.
Milos Bekansky / Getty Images

Next, the researchers identified microorganisms from six locations across San Diego that are able to break down and ingest the material.

In 2010, researchers estimated that 17 billion pounds of plastic ends up in the ocean each year, and a sharp rise is expected by 2025.

When plastic waste enters the water, it disrupts marine ecosystems and together migrate to form giant piles of trash, like the 0.6 million square mile Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Co-produced with SWNS Talker.

This story was provided to Newsweek by Zinger news.

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