The Centre for SMART (Sustainable Manufacturing and Recycling Technologies) estimates that 1.2 million tonnes of post-consumer shoe related trash is generated annually in the EU. Roughly 15% (or 26,244 tonnes) of post-consumer shoe waste is collected and distributed in the UK as used shoes. Landfills receive the remaining 85%. Due to rapid growth and wear-and-tear, a large part of the issue is caused by kids' shoes.
The Dubs Universe is contributing to the overall answer by developing eco-friendly footwear and minimising shoe waste.
Let's face it, shoes are a big part of society but every year, more and more pairs of shoes are discarded. Shoe waste is an issue that needs to be addressed on a global scale
By 2025, the worldwide footwear market will be worth more than $95 billion. Consumer demand for shoes continues to rise thanks to more and more effective advertising campaigns and the rise of sneaker culture. More than 20 billion pairs of shoes are produced annually.
This amounts to 1.4% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Your pair of trainers emits 30 pounds of CO2 when produced, the equivalent of a week's worth of use for a 100-watt light bulb.
Synthetic materials used to make shoes can also take years to biodegrade. They damage the environment from manufacturing – through the production of GHGs – until the end of their useful lives, when they breakdown into micro plastics. These synthetic materials often produce excess hazardous substances that harm our health, our planet and wildlife.
In Britain, 25 million pairs of shoes wind up in landfill. One pair of shoes can take between 30 and 40 years to decompose.
Due to development spurts and boisterous play, children are likely to have worn through over 25 pairs of shoes by the age of 12.
This is where Dubs Universe come in.
Leila was one such child. Stuart, Leila’s father and Co-Founder of Dubs Universe, was complaining to Gary, a graphic designer and his future business partner, about how Leila's feet had outgrown her new shoes (again, which she had only worn twice and were now heading for the trash).
With years of graphic design experience working in the fashion industry, Gary understood this all too well. He knew that comfort, looks, and sustainability had to go hand-in-hand, but the amount of waste was out of control.
During the UK's first COVID lock-down, the two co-founders both lost their jobs. Mercifully Stuart's daughter was still having lunchtime naps so, during this 37-minute window, the team put their brains and experience in design and marketing to good use – and the dream of an 'Immortal Sneaker' was born.
The LoopLite, their debut sneaker was developed for parents with young children; particularly those looking to shop more ethically and make consumption conscious decisions.
“Since we started The Dubs Universe, we have developed an extensive and diverse roster of partners, from academic institutions to European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) backed sustainable government bodies who are helping support our journey”.
The Dubs Universe have been backed by Innovate UK and ReLondon, Sals Shoes and the BFA. This children’s clothing brand hold design, technology, enjoyment, and circularity as their core values.
Working with SustainableInnovation
Dubs saw how working with Sustainable Innovation (SI) and South Bank Innovation (SBI) specialists could help them, and so joined our third cohort in August last year.
Our SI team quickly started to collaborate with Dubs to:
- Expand their understanding of how sneakers are made
- Consult with specialists to choose a material that will increase the shoes' ability to be recycled and be sustainably produced
- Confirm the utility of the substance by testing in London South Bank University laboratories
- Determine the real cost of making Dubs shoes on the environment
- Use identified data in their communications packs
"We wouldn't have been so informed about our product, and the true cost it takes on the environment to develop," The Dubs Universe said about their experience.
The future for The Dubs Universe
The Dubs Universe has great ambitions for the future that will need time and resources to realise. They are planning to:
- Create and test novel, innovative and sustainable materials for use in manufacture
- Strengthen their "take-back-refurb-resell" model's circular logistics, which includes consumers sending outgrown shoes back to Dubs for refurbishment and resale
This will lower manufacturing cost, keeping sneakers in use for longer, and build a consumption conscious community with their base
- Launch their subscription service where kids' feet (ages 1-4) grow on average 1 size every 2-3 months
- Match their range of shoes with the weather/season against food growth and develop a more automated subscription service for their customers
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Learn more about our Sustainable Innovation programme here.