June 16, 2024 7:01 am

Worried about carbon footprint? Indian start-up’s ‘recycled’ shoes may put your mind at ease

Gurugram/Jalandhar: This one is for those worried about their carbon footprint, quite literally. You can now buy a pair of sneakers, that manufacturers claim are made entirely of recycled waste. The price of $129.90 (Rs 9,757), will no doubt seem steep for the average shopper, but for the environmentally woke, it will be a small price to pay for an item the production of which has traditionally been a major source of solid waste production.

According to an article published in 2014, an average pair of shoes take about 50 years to completely decompose. A paper published in 2020 estimated that globally, about 21 million shoes are manufactured annually. “This creates a humungous amount of waste generation from footwear and leather sectors. The maximum percentage of footwear waste is generated from the post-consumer footwear waste, i.e. end of life of footwear which mainly goes into the landfills,” the paper stated.

Now, an Indian start-up Thaely — which translates to bag in Hindi — is using a novel manufacturing technique that uses only vegan (such as vegan glue) and recycled materials like plastic bags and bottles, to make shoes.

“I’ve always been interested in sustainability and footwear. The process came about through trial and error, but the interest has always been there,” Ashay Bhave, the 23 year old entrepreneur behind the start up, told ThePrint.

While Bhave claimed their “shoes are the only ones to use bags as well as bottles” as the material for production, it is not the only only brand to make shoes from plastic. Hyderabad based brand Neeman’s also claims to be making shoes made from plastic bottles, all natural fabrics, and recycled rubber.

Other mainstream brands like Nike, Converse, and Reebok also have models of shoes that claim to be sustainable.

However, Thaely, which started sales in June this year,has been drawing a lot of attention in the past year. Mahindra Group Chairman, Anand Mahindra tweeted last month his interest in funding the start up, and added he was “embarrassed” at not having heard of it before.

While Bhave is tight lipped about possible funding from Mahindra, he said, “We have a lot of venture capitalists involved and we’re already making a profit. Every month, we’re making sales worth $25,000,” he said.

The ‘ThaelyTex’ story

Bhave grew up in Navi Mumbai and studied for a year at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, before completing his BBA in Entrepreneurship in Amity University, Dubai.

The first prototype for Thaely shoes emerged during Bhave’s time at Amity University, when he competed in a “Shark Tank” like competition and won, recalled the entrepreneur. And even though the nitty-gritties of the manufacturing process have evolved, the way in which the material that forms the body of the shoe is made has largely stayed the same.

A single pair of Thaely sneakers uses 15 plastic bags in total, nine of which are cut into squares and fused together using heat, producing a textile that resembles cloth, called ThaelyTex by the company.

“This is something completely new, no other company or brand has used plastic bags,” claimed Bhave.

But Thaely shoes are made possible by two other ventures involved in the production process.

The first is Triotap Technologies, a Gurugram-based recycler, which claims to be the only dry waste vendor in the city. Triotap Technologies collects dry waste and segregates it in its Material Recovery Facility.

Its workers are equipped with protective gear and in addition to working with Thaely, Triotap Technologies founder Ravi Trivedi said they “also collect dry waste for other purposes, like segregating multilayered plastics, so tiles can be made from them”.

For Thaely shoes, workers soak the plastic bags in a solution of Surf Excel and water, before they’re cut and fused for use.

“We collect the plastic, clean it, cut it up, fuse it to make the ThaelyTex and then send it to a factory for production,” explained Trivedi.

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