Thaely doesn’t just make shoes — it upcycles them. Its products are made completely from plastic bags, bottles, caps, and waste rubber.
In fact, the name Thaely is based on the Hindi word for “plastic bag,” and there’s hardly a better way to let people know that the footwear is made of waste — or more importantly, why it’s made that way.
Ashay Bhave, the company’s founder, explains on the company website that the origin of the idea was a 2017 college project that sought creative solutions to the problem of discarded plastic bags, which have profoundly negative effects on the planet and wildlife. An estimated 500 billion bags are used every year, which not only use tons of oil to make, but many also end up in nature where they pollute our waters and often kill animals.
Bhave’s project was to transform plastic bags into a workable material that could be turned into something useful, like sneakers. The prototypes were successful, and after the concept won a start-up pitch competition, Thaely was off to the races.
Thaely employs teams of rag pickers (workers who extract potentially useful or valuable items from trash) to collect the plastic bags. After they’re cleaned, the bags are pressed and cut into sheets, which will form most of the shoe.
The sole is made from rubber waste created from other industries, like tire manufacturing, and the laces are a weave-like material, composed of what were once plastic bottles. This is impressive enough on its own, but the product packaging is also sustainable — the compostable cardboard has basil seeds integrated into its material, allowing the buyer to grow their own herbs if they so choose.
In total, each shoe is made with 10 plastic bags and around 12 bottles, meaning one pair removes nearly four dozen pieces of plastic trash from the environment.
While shoes alone will not solve the ecological crisis caused by plastic waste, companies like Thaely reveal enthusiasm for a change in the environmentally harmful status quo. Similarly, it was only a few weeks ago that Miss Universe Thailand’s aluminum pull-tab dress took the internet by storm, adding further proof that people everywhere are more than ready for an imaginative, sustainable world.
To learn more about the product, visit Thaely’s website.