Get smart curated videos delivered to your inbox.   SUBSCRIBE
The Kid Should See This

Are your sneakers are part of the plastic problem?

Watch more with these video collections:

Plastics are used throughout modern sneakers to make them more comfortable, stronger, and lighter. But this hodgepodge of different plastics, “stitched and glued and molded together in complicated ways,” also makes shoes very hard to recycle. Our options are often to give them away, grind them up, or throw them away, adding to the planet’s plastic problem. The bad news:

Worldwide, more than 24 billion pairs of shoes were made in 2018, with over two billion pairs sold in the U.S. alone. That’s more than seven pairs per person each year filling up American’s closets, piling up near doorways, and eventually making their way to the trash.

list of plastics in shoes
How do we balance sustainability with our culture of fashion, functionality, affordability, and a basic need for shoes?

Take a closer look at the anatomy of today’s sneakers and the history behind them with this National Geographic video: Your Sneakers Are Part of the Plastic Problem. It’s an informative addition to their series The Story of Plastics.

D’Wayne Edwards at Pensole
The video features visionary sneaker legend and Pensole Footwear Design Academy founder D’Wayne Edwards, footwear forcaster Nicoline van Enter, and some good news:

The World Footwear 2030 Report predicts that sustainability will drive innovation in the footwear industry. And it’s already happening. Big brands are experimenting with things like biofabrication, like using mushrooms to grow the materials for their shoes. And 3D printing, which significantly reduces waste during the manufacturing process.

One example of this is the Adidas Futurecraft Loop. Here’s how it works: “If you a shoe of only one material, you can grind that up, take it back to pellets, melt that again, and turn it back into the same TPU [thermoplastic polyurethane] that the shoe was made of.”

 Adidas Futurecraft Loop
Will companies continue to invest in these sustainable solutions? What will consumers push for from their footwear? Can we create a circular economy for sneakerheads? Some history:

MONICA SERRANO, NGM STAFF; MEG ROOSEVELT - SOURCES: BRITANNICA; AMERICAN APPAREL & FOOTWEAR ASSOCIATION; THE WASHINGTON POST; ADIDAS, 2019 WORLD FOOTWEAR YEARBOOK AND MORE RECYCLING

Read more about why your shoes are made of plastics.

Then watch this video next: Fungus, The Plastic Of The Future.

Plus, more videos: How traditional Chinese cloth shoes are made, Shoes by Primitive Technology, and colorful animal sculptures made from recycled flip-flops.

This Webby award-winning video collection exists to help teachers, librarians, and families spark kid wonder and curiosity. TKSST features smarter, more meaningful content than what's usually served up by YouTube's algorithms, and amplifies the creators who make that content.

Curated, kid-friendly, independently-published. Support this mission by becoming a sustaining member today.

🌈 Watch these videos next...

How to make a DIY olla terracotta watering pot

Rion Nakaya

The Maya Milpa Cycle, a sustainable forest gardening method

Rion Nakaya

How do you rescue good ideas from the Valley of Death?

Rion Nakaya

Hopi Dryland Farming: Growing corn with rainfall in the desert

Rion Nakaya

From Trash to Space Hippie: Nike shoes made from waste

Rion Nakaya

Chief Oshkosh and a history of Menominee Forest conservation

Rion Nakaya

How to Make a Beeswax Wrap

Rion Nakaya

Otters wrap themselves in kelp for safety

Rion Nakaya

How can nature be used as a tool to restore ecosystems?

Rion Nakaya