Over 25 billion pairs of shoes are made each year. This includes 3 billion flip flops made from synthetic materials.

All of these shoes go to landfill or are left in the environment (littered) when they are used. As each pair weighs between 0.5-1kg, that is millions of tonnes of waste in landfill created. This volume of footwear production is increasing by 20% per decade, or 10 billion extra throwaway shoes by 2030. Just how big is this? By comparison, the entire apparel world production is 100 billion items per annum. Athletic footwear represents a $50bn market but almost nothing is being spent on circularity or environmental initiatives.

Circuthon Consulting is aiming to address this issue through the launch of the Circular Footwear Initiative. As Dr Marcel den Hollander, integrated strategic circular design consultant, says, “To make a circular economy work, it is essential for industry to let go of the destructive misconception that the best way to create economic value is from products that are newly manufactured out of virgin materials.”

The Circular Footwear Initiative is pushing for real, positive change to be made before it’s too late. Rachel Fortune, founder of the Sustainable Lifestyle Awards, agrees. “We need footwear to disassemble, be repairable, be repurposed and to expand when a child grows,” she says. “We need materials and componentry that can be refashioned, restructured and, if all else fails, recycled. At the very least, in the short term, footwear needs to be compostable, and by that we mean certified-compostable, not some greenwash mythical biodegradation”.

We are planning on working with leading experts and designers to find a way to address this crisis, and are planning a series of events and roundtables to encourage debate and the sharing of information. The official launch will be in January 2021.