London, UK
Thomson Reuters Foundation

Scientists in California have devised a new way for sunseekers to care for the environment when they hit the beach – biodegradable flip-flops made from algae.

Working in partnership with tech start-up company Algenesis Materials, researchers at the University of California San Diego have spent years trying to produce a solid foam-like material out of oil extracted from algae to make the green beach sandals.

Biodegradable flipflips

A pair of biodegradable flip-flops sit on a beach in the Maldive Island chain on 15th September, 2018. PICTURE: Courtesy of  Stephen Mayfield.

They hope the sustainable footwear, which is due to be launched through a major flip-flop brand next year, will cut the amount of plastic ending up in oceans and landfill sites.

"There are over one billion flip-flops made in the world every year and are actually a major plastic pollution in the oceans," Stephen Mayfield, one of the project's leaders, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Friday.

Mayfield, director at the California Center for Algae Biotechnology and Associate Director Michael Burkart co-led the project with graduate student, Natasha Gunawan and Marissa Tessman, a research scientist at Algenesis Materials.

Plastic pollution in the oceans is expected to triple by 2040, according to a study by the International Solid Waste Association, an NGO.

"People are...starting to demand products that can address what has become an environmental disaster," said Tom Cooke, president of Algenesis Materials.