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Young New Zealander creates fully compostable shoe

Rik Olthuis, an Industrial Design graduate has taken a step in the right direction for sustainability with his fully compostable footwear design and as a result has landed the national prize for the 2020 James Dyson Award.

The Voronoi Runners address the global issue of waste from the footwear industry, representing 1.4% of global climate impacts, and are uniquely designed so they’re easily deconstructed, with every component and material able to be composted at the end of life.

Rik says: “Currently, footwear materials focus on performance, which is important, especially in runners. However, what isn’t being considered is what happens to the product once it’s no longer of use. The use of adhesives prevents the separation and treatment of materials at the end of the product’s lifecycle. I was inspired to design a sneaker using only biodegradable materials with no adhesives – leading the future of sustainable footwear.”

James Dyson Award 2020 New Zealand judges, Dr Michelle Dickinson aka Nanogirl and Rachel Brown, Founder and CEO of the Sustainable Business Network were particularly impressed with the Voronoi Runners.

Michelle said: “I really like the biomimetic approach Rik has taken with the idea to use gelatin in the foam. Allbirds has proven that there is a growing market for sustainability focused product innovation so this could be the perfect time for this product.”

Rachel said: “The fashion industry is hugely wasteful and has a long way to go in terms of its approach to sustainability. I was really impressed by the approach taken and the way Rik thought about the full life cycle from its material choice and eliminating nasty adhesives to production via 3D printing and then thinking through what happens to these shoes at the end of life.”

Also making the top three in the national award, runners up in this year’s competition also included Massey University students, Lisa Newman with her design SWITCH, a portable hand tool to help maintain clean cattle tails, and Samantha Hughes, with her design Clean Catch, a paediatric urine sample collection device.

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