Woolybubs presents a pair of biodegradable baby shoes that dissolve in boiling water | News STIRpad


When Portland-based parents of three Megan and Jesse Milliken lived through the quarantine days of the COVID 2020 pandemic, being home all day — surrounded and overwhelmed by piles of children’s items — their gave an idea. With Megan’s background in environmental sustainability and Jesse’s background in product development – after working in shoe design for Nike, the two set out to build the world’s first disappearing baby shoe. .

Woolybubs, the American company the two co-founded that creates these shoes, is focused on the fact that babies grow quite quickly and parents everywhere are struggling to declutter their homes of things their children no longer need. The shoes are also the duo’s small contribution to creating a biodegradable design that doesn’t end up in landfills.

Woolybubs shoes take into account that children grow quite quickly and often end up in landfills Image: Kaitlin Green, courtesy of Woolybubs

But how does it work, you ask me? Woolybubs baby kicks, when dipped in boiling water, disappear, “leaving a safe, non-toxic liquid right in front of your eyes”. Made from what the founders describe as “100% biodegradable materials”, the shoes, even if not immersed in boiling water, will break down over time in an industrial composting facility.


Woolybubs baby shoes dissolve when immersed in boiling water
Image: Courtesy of Woolybubs

Speaking to STIR on a Zoom call, Megan discusses the genesis of Woolybubs and what it aims to achieve. She says: “For Jesse and I, like many people in the time of COVID, we thought about the increasing climate change impacting everyone’s life and what we could do as individuals. We thought about doing something that could somehow not send things to landfills, clutter up our lives, and earth’s ecology any more than it already is. And that’s how Jesse and I came up with a biodegradable shoe model. We started with shoes because that’s what Jesse knows in the world of product design and development while I tend to do his marketing, but hopefully we can expand into more. Other Things Babies Grow Quickly or Parents Don’t. need that has a short lifespan.

Woolybubs’ shoes, according to Megan and Jesse, are their small contribution to reducing the inevitable amount of waste that comes with parenthood Image: Kaitlin Green, courtesy of Woolybubs

According to Megan and Jesse’s industry research, each person in the United States throws away about four pounds of trash every day, and about 18 pounds a day for a family. Parenting, well, witnesses an exponential increase in waste when things are no longer needed and only 15% of it is passed on. Both men are convinced that while Woolybubs’ sustainable baby shoes may not solve the global waste problem, they hope their children’s products will offer parents an affordable and convenient option to significantly reduce the amount of waste in their homes. their house.

The Woolybubs Newbie come in a combination of soft pastel colors Image: Courtesy of Woolybubs

“The Newbie is our first step,” adds Megan, pointing to the company’s line of first pair of baby shoes. Available in a combination of soft pastel colors, each pair of shoes is made with water-soluble inks and polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH) – a colorless, odorless and water-soluble synthetic polymer commonly used in the manufacture of beauty products, in health care and pharmacy. . Asked about the materiality of the product, Megan continues: “We source from Japan, China and Austria, and the shoes are currently made in China. It is also OEKO-TEX certified, one of the safest designations you can have for any type of material.

When you put the shoes in boiling water, the PVOH in the shoe dissolves seamlessly into the liquid where, according to Megan, “it doesn’t break down into microplastics but instead breaks down into single polymer chains.” The polymers, although not visible to the naked eye, remain in the liquid; their decomposition occurs at the sewage treatment plant where microorganisms reduce the polymers to carbon dioxide and water.

Shoes can be dissolved in boiling water or broken down in a local industrial composting facility. Image: Kaitlin Green, courtesy of Woolybubs

If the consumer opts for shoe composting, the process could only be possible at an industrial composting site under predefined temperature and environmental conditions. Or one can simply send the shoes back to the company where they are decomposed through their composting partner.

A project that started from the couple’s parenting journey, STIR asks Megan what’s NEXT for her and Woolybubs. Optimistic to broaden the horizon of the company, she says: “We hope to grow with the baby and what do the parents want to see go once they are done with it. For the most part, I think the answer is almost everything. But ideally things that have a short lifespan would be wonderful if they could be biodegradable.


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