If knitted sneakers sound like a strange concept, it may sound even stranger that they come from trash found in the ocean.
The German-based shoe company Adidas paired with conservation group Parley for the Oceans to develop a sneaker design made by knitting illegal gill nets and other waste found at the bottom of the ocean, according to an Adidas group statement.
The conservation effects of this method are twofold: using recycled nets removes existing waste from the environment, and knitting results in creating less new waste.
"Knitting in general eliminates waste, because you don't have to cut out the patterns like on traditional footwear," Eric Liedtke, Adidas Group executive board member of global brands, said according to Fast Coexist. "We use what we need for the shoe and waste nothing."
The yarns and filaments from the nets and other ocean waste form the shoe upper, the Adidas statement said. Parley partner organization Sea Shepherd collected the nets used for the prototype shoe on a 110-day expedition tracking an illegal poaching vessel.
"It's a fishing net that was spanning the bottom of the sea like a wall, and killing pretty much every fish passing by," Parley for the Oceans founder Cyrill Gutsch told Fast Coexist. "They confiscated this net, and we're bringing it back to life."
The shoe is not for sale – and it probably will not be anytime soon. An Adidas spokeswoman told The Huffington Post that, at least for now, the focus of the project has not been on marketing and mass producing, but rather on simply showing it can be done.
“This is not a plan, this is an action,” she said. “We did this to show what we are capable of doing when we all put our heads together.”
Though this shoe might never hit markets, Adidas is one of many companies that has sought to create sustainable footwear. Adidas touts its use of recycled materials to make more efficient use of patterns, and the company also participates in donation programs for used shoes. New Balance also created a sneaker made from recycled plastic in 2011. Hiking boot manufacturer Timberland uses an eco-friendly rubber compound in its soles and recycled plastic water bottles in its linings and laces.
While reusing plastic helps keep it out of the ocean and other waste destinations, Mr. Gutsch acknowledged that the concept still faces sustainability problems. The shoes are still made of plastic, and even if this plastic is no longer killing fish, it will eventually become waste again when the shoes are thrown out, and may end up back in the ocean.
"We're going to end ocean plastic pollution only if we're going to reinvent the material," Gutsch told Fast Coexist. "We need a plastic that is not the current plastic—it's a design failure. It causes a lot of problems. Plastic doesn't belong in nature, it doesn't belong in the belly of a fish, it doesn't belong out there. The ultimate solution is to cut into this ongoing stream of material that never dies, is to reinvent plastic."