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This Eco-Footwear Startup Makes Sneakers From Ocean Trash

Bernardo Pedroso founded Ocean Refresh in 2019 with the aim to rid our oceans of plastic, according to the sustainability startup’s website.

After getting its feet wet in the world of footwear with its Ocean Refresh flip flops—made from plastic its partners have removed directly from the ocean—the U.K-based group is looking to dive deeper into the shoe industry with its Oceana sneaker Kickstarter campaign.

The shoes, available in navy, black and white, are built with fabric crafted from recycled ghost nets—fishing nets left or lost in the ocean by those in the seafood trade. According to a 2018 report by U.K.-based World Animal Protection, at least 705,000 tons of ghost gear are added to oceans every year. Forty-five percent of all marine animals on the Red List of Threatened Species, it said, had been impacted by lost or abandoned fishing gear.

In addition to the ghost-net fabric, the Oceana sneaker’s soles are made from recycled rubber, its aglets from recycled ocean plastic and its insert from recycled cork and foam. Ocean Refresh claims to use only ethical factories that have zero-waste credentials and that ensure all suppliers have fair working conditions for their employees.

Ocean Refresh launched its Oceana Kickstarter on Oct. 15, setting a goal of $18,884. With a deadline of Nov. 11, the project has raised more than $14,500 so far. The sneakers are available for about $94 when bought through Kickstarter, half off their expected retail price. The shoes are slated to ship in December.

According to Ocean Refresh, it has helped to remove more than 1 million plastic bottles from oceans. Its website says it plans to remove 2 million plastic bottles by 2021. Its partners include Seaquel Initiative, Route Global, Marine Conservation Society and Plastic Oceans UK.

Ocean Refresh follows in the footsteps of mega-brands like Adidas, which has made Parley’s reclaimed marine plastic pollution a bigger part of its footwear supply chain, and Rothy’s, whose popular flats and sneakers are similarly built on the plastic trash threatening aquatic life.