30 Sep 2020

Turning algae and rubbish into shoes

From Lately, 10:33 pm on 30 September 2020

A Wellington-based start-up is using algae, pineapple husks, ocean plastic, bamboo and Merino wool to make shoes.

Jeremy Bank of YY Nation told Karyn Hay about his goal to create "the world's most sustainable shoe."

The idea came to him when he took his family back to a favourite beach in Maui.

YY Nation footwear.

YY Nation footwear. Photo: Supplied

“I showed them the beach which I loved most, and my daughter was looking at sand and there was these little blue flecks and as we looked a little bit closer we discovered it was actually plastic and there was an old washed up shoe,” he says.

That was the catalyst that led to the YY Nation brand two years later, Bank says.

Organic and recycled material is used in every shoe component, he says.

“Probably my favourite story is around the pineapple husk, because it is a waste by-product of the pineapple plantations and in normal conditions it just gets burned off.

“What we are putting into our shoes is this waste by-product that is transformed into a replacement for leather. It gives support and structure to the shoe.”

It also offers another income stream to farmers in the Philippines, he says.

Merino wool is also a component.

“New Zealand merino wool which has just incredible properties; it’s odour resistant, temperature regulated and we’ve used very specific types of merino wool, specific grades, so that it can be worn with or without socks.”

Bamboo is being used as a source material.

“You can choose between merino or bamboo uppers and bamboo has very similar qualities to merino.

“It’s also one of the fastest growing plants on the planet and it recycles a lot of its own water use so it’s a very efficient plant, you can cut it and then it’s grown back in no time at all.”

Bank says the shoes are sturdy and comfortable enough to wear all day.

“They feel almost like a slipper.”