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Ccilu Seeks Funding for Shoe Made Entirely with Recycled Plastic Bottles

Japanese footwear brand Ccilu, known for its supportive sneakers, sandals and boots, is now working to develop the world’s most sustainable shoe.

The company’s GreenPlax design represents the first shoe to be made entirely with post-consumer plastic bottles—from soles to uppers.

While many brands have tapped into the recycled PET stream in the creation of new products (like Adidas‘ ultra-successful Parley for the Oceans line), most are only using recycled plastics to create the fabric uppers for their footwear. Sneakers and athletic shoes are made from a multitude of inputs, like polymer-based foams, metals, leathers, and other synthetic fibers—and that mix of materials contributes to their polluting nature.

Ccilu founder and CEO Wilson Hsu said he hopes that the brand’s GreenPlax design, which is being funded through Kickstarter, will spur an industry-wide shift to the use of recycled PET across multiple inputs. In fact, Hsu said brands throughout Europe and Australia have already expressed interest in integrating the technology into their own designs, and he’s eager to partner with them to create mass impact.

On average, a pair of the GreenPlax sneakers for men or women consumes 15 recycled plastic bottles, he said. The lightweight product is made up of a woven upper, which is water and stain-resistant; Ortholite odor-resistant, sustainable insoles; and blended recycled PET and EVA outsoles.

In March, Ccilu launched a separate sustainable initiative called XpreSole, wherein used coffee grounds were integrated into a number of major footwear components—from uppers to insoles and outsoles.

Coffee grounds are blended with other inputs to create the fabrics and foams of Ccilu's XpreSole line.
Coffee grounds are blended with other inputs to create the fabrics and foams of Ccilu’s XpreSole line. Ccilu

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Each pair of the brand’s Cody sneakers, which debuted this spring, utilizes the amount of coffee grounds needed to make five cups of the caffeinated beverage.

Hsu said Ccilu sought a solution that would integrate the unorthodox material because of its environmentally damaging properties—and its abundance. Coffee grounds emit both methane and carbon dioxide when dumped in landfills, and the greenhouse gases contribute greatly to global warming. About 850 billion cups of coffee are consumed each year, he said, producing around 25 billion kilograms of grounds.

Ccilu’s in-house team of technicians dry, grind and sift the ground, finally forming them into pellets. A proprietary process turns the pellets into fabrics or sole material by combining them with other substrate materials.

The company is also currently workshopping a use for the silicon slurry created by the tech industry. Plastic residuals from smartphones and semi-conductors could be used to create footwear, Hsu said, and it’s a program that is currently underway.

The company will continue to expand upon its suite of sustainable solutions and upcycling concepts with an eye toward creating a circular economy in the footwear industry.

“We can attract a great pool of consumers who have the same beliefs by feeding them more sustainable products and programs,” Hsu said.