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Designer develops futuristic line of sneakers that tell you when to trade them in: 'Shoes have too short a life'

The business works on a subscription model — like Netflix for your feet.

The business works on a subscription model — like Netflix for your feet.

Photo Credit: Baliston

We spend plenty of time thinking about how much pollution is produced by things like our cars, our food, or our water bottles — but we rarely think about how much pollution is caused by our shoes.

Unfortunately, it's a lot of pollution. More than 23 billion pairs of sneakers are made every year, using non-recyclable materials, and every year more than 300 million pairs are thrown away. They usually end up taking up space in landfills.

To combat this problem, French industrial architect and designer Philippe Starck has created a shoe with a Bluetooth-connected electronic module embedded under the insole, which tells users when a shoe is worn out. They can then send their old shoes back to the manufacturer, a startup called Baliston, for recycling and receive a new pair in exchange. The business works on a subscription model — like Netflix for your feet. 

The subscription costs $249 per year, which, according to one survey, is right around what the average American spends on shoes per year. The idea of a subscription model for shoes is not entirely new — a Swiss company called On also sells its running shoes on a subscription basis, and it recycles the old ones.

"I was interested in making shoes because shoes have too short a life," said Starck.

In addition to telling customers when their shoes need to be sent to their maker, the electronic module also tracks their steps. This establishes what Baliston founder Karim Oumnia called a "walking DNA" and crafts a custom insole that Baliston sends to each customer.

Starck, Baliston, and On are not the only ones trying to revolutionize the footwear industry with recyclable sneakers. A Netherlands-based company called FastFeetGrinded has set up operations to recycle even sneakers that were not designed to be recycled, separating the various plastics, rubbers, other synthetics, and even leather.

All in all, it is definitely a positive step that so many in the clothing and apparel industries are striving to make their products less harmful to the planet.

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