Revolutionising the Footwear Industry with a vision for Biodegradable 3D-printed Shoes
The Collaboration of Vivobarefoot and Balena
In 2019, Vivo’s co-founder, Asher Clark, delivered a captivating presentation at Biofabricate sharing the brand’s vision to develop footwear that was regenerative to both people and planet. Little did Asher know, his presentation had captured the attention of someone in the audience… David Roubach, a sustainability entrepreneur. Asher’s talk ignited David's passion to establish a material science company called Balena, focusing on developing fully industrially compostable, biobased, recyclable, thermoplastic materials, bridging the circularity gap in the realm of footwear and durable goods.
Fast forward three years, and now VivoBarefoot and Balena are announcing an ambitious new partnership to address the harmful impacts of the footwear industry through the combination of technology and material science inspired by nature.
The journey toward a circular end-of-life system for footwear faces a significant challenge rooted in the intricate nature of shoes — both in their design intricacy and the diverse materials used during manufacturing. The complexity arises from the multitude of components, making recycling and reintegrating used shoes into the supply chain a formidable task. As a solution, the need for biodegradable material alternatives becomes imperative, offering a relevant environmentally friendly approach to the challenges posed by the current limitations of recycling in the footwear industry.
Balena aims to help tackle this by developing compostable, biobased, recyclable, thermoplastic materials with advanced performance properties for scaled durable goods production, including footwear, on a mission to create a circular model for consumer industries.
Revolutionising Footwear with Balena's BioCir®flex Material & 3D-printing
Balena's innovative BioCir®flex material is a revolutionary breakthrough in the realm of material science for versatile applications including 3D-printed footwear.
Its proprietary BioCir®flex material is a high-performance, durable, flexible, fully industrially compostable, and recyclable thermoplastic elastomer. Comprising over 50% bio-based content, it actively reduces the dependence on toxic, fossil fuel-based materials typically used in the footwear industry and aims to replace unsustainable materials such as TPU, PVC, and LDPE. Through a biological recycling mechanism, products crafted from BioCir®flex are able to decompose and biodegrade, safely returning to the ground within controlled industrial compost environments in a fully circular life cycle.
This innovative partnership will unlock a future of on-demand biodegradable footwear that enables you to reconnect to nature, move naturally, and return your footwear back to nature when you’re done, leaving no waste behind.
Balena’s 3D-printing specific material - the BioCir3D - being based on the BioCir®flex technology, maintains high flexibility similar to TPU, providing reliable and long-lasting 3D-printed products. At the same time, it is biobased and industrially compostable, reducing the environmental impact of discarded prints and for the first time enabling 3D printing of flexible and durable items while giving them the unique property of biodegradability, whereas traditional TPU is non-biodegradable and contributes to plastic waste.
3D-printing, alongside advanced bio-based materials, hopes in future to combat the immense footwear waste challenge by enabling on-demand production, extending product lifespan through personalisation and design flexibility, and enabling clear circular end-of-life for the used products.
A Harmonious Partnership for a Circular Future
Balena and Vivobarefoot have come together on a transformative journey, driven by a shared commitment to mitigate the negative impact of the footwear industry. Our collaboration sets a remarkable benchmark in the fusion of biomimetic design and biomaterials science, harmonising the relationship between nature and technology.
VivoBiome is currently in the testing phase in the UK with a wear-testing group of VivoBiome Pioneers. We plan to test Biome footwear made with Balena’s BioCer within the next 6 months and be available to customers in the next 18 months.