Gurugram / Jalandhar: This one is for those who are worried about their carbon footprint, literally. You can now buy a pair of sneakers, which the manufacturers say are made entirely from recycled waste. The price of $ 129.90 (Rs 9,757) will undoubtedly seem high for the average buyer, but for those who are aware of the environment, it will be a small price to pay for an item that has traditionally been produced. a major source of solid waste production. .
According to an article published in 2014, an average pair of shoes takes about 50 years to completely decompose. An article published in 2020 estimated that around 21 million shoes are made worldwide each year. “This creates a huge amount of waste generated by the footwear and leather industries. The maximum percentage of shoe waste is generated by post-consumer shoe waste, that is, the end-of-life of shoes that mainly go to landfills, ”the newspaper said.
Today, an Indian start-up Thaely – which translates to bag in Hindi – uses a new manufacturing technique that uses only vegan (like vegan glue) and recycled materials like plastic bags and bottles, to make shoes.
“I’ve always been interested in durability and shoes. The process went through trial and error, but the interest has always been there, ”Ashay Bhave, the 23-year-old entrepreneur behind the start-up, told ThePrint.
While Bhave claimed that its “shoes are the only ones that use bags as well as bottles” as the production material, it is not the only brand to make plastic shoes. Hyderabad-based brand Neeman’s also claims to make shoes from plastic bottles, all-natural fabrics and recycled rubber.
Other mainstream brands like Nike, Converse, and Reebok also offer shoe models that claim to be durable.
However, Thaely, which started sales in June of this year, garnered a lot of attention last year. Mahindra Group Chairman Anand Mahindra tweeted his interest in funding the startup last month, adding that he was “embarrassed” that he hadn’t heard of it before.
While Bhave is tight-lipped about a possible Mahindra funding, he said, “We have a lot of venture capitalists involved and we are already making a profit. Every month we make sales worth $ 25,000, ”he said.
The history of ‘ThaelyTex’
Bhave grew up in Navi Mumbai and studied for a year at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, before completing his BBA in Entrepreneurship at Amity University, Dubai.
The first prototype of Thaely shoes emerged during Bhave’s time at Amity University, when he competed in a “Shark Tank” type competition and won, the entrepreneur recalled. And although the details of the manufacturing process have evolved, the way the material that forms the body of the shoe is made has remained largely the same.
A single pair of Thaely sneakers uses 15 plastic bags in total, nine of which are cut into squares and fused together using heat, producing a textile that looks like fabric, called ThaelyTex by the company.
“This is something completely new, no other company or brand has used plastic bags,” Bhave said.
But Thaely shoes are made possible by two other companies involved in the production process.
The first is Triotap Technologies, a recycler based in Gurugram, which claims to be the city’s sole dry waste seller. Triotap Technologies collects dry waste and separates it in its material recovery facility.
Its employees are fitted with protective gear and in addition to working with Thaely, Triotap Technologies founder Ravi Trivedi said they “also collect dry waste for other purposes, such as the separation of multi-layered plastics, in order to be able to make tiles “.
For Thaely shoes, workers soak the plastic bags in a solution of Surf Excel and water, before cutting and fusing them for use.
“We collect the plastic, clean it, cut it, fuse it to make the ThaelyTex, then send it to a factory for production,” Trivedi explained.
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The manufacturing process
Triotap Technologies manufactures approximately 100 squares of ThaelyTex per day, which are then sent to Nitush Footwear in Jalandhar, a footwear factory.
Nitish Chaddha, owner of the factory that has been making the shoes for over eight months, said the process was not always easy.
“This shoe is more complicated to make, because while an average shoe has five-six components (the upper, the base, the way the laces are sewn), it has about 13. It takes twice as much. time to make a Thaely shoe when compared to an average sneaker, ”he said.
The only shoe model available is called Y2K, short for “Year 2000” – a nostalgia for the 2000s aesthetic that Thaely soaks up. Its design is reminiscent of turn-of-the-century fashion and is inspired by the look of simple canvas shoes.
“At first we weren’t sure this product would ever materialize. When Mr. Bhave approached us I had no idea how we could do it, but took it upon myself as a challenge. Making the Thaeley shoe was a learning experience for us, ”Chaddha told ThePrint.
He added: “At the beginning we even suffered losses during production. We weren’t even able to make 50 shoes at first. Now we are making up to 300 a week.
Thaely is positioned as a high-end shoe brand, focused on an American and European market. But instead of just branding and appearance, it offers the added benefit of being environmentally friendly.
“People are willing to pay more for a sustainable product, but the Indian market is a bit more price conscious. We then offer a slightly cheaper option for the Indian market, ”he said.
Some sustainability enthusiasts, however, are willing to pay the current price. “At $ 100, that’s a good deal. The Adidas Ocean Plastic shoes were $ 350 so the price wasn’t a problem for me, ”said Ritv Kapoor, customer and owner of a vegan cafe in Delhi. “I only buy recycled and sustainable products, so I really relate to Thaely’s message.”
Kapoor bought the Thaely shoes six months ago and liked them so much that he decided to present the shoes in his cafe.
Meanwhile, Bhave is considering how customers can extend the life of their Thaely shoes. “We are launching a new business model, where people can trade in their old shoes for new ones, which will give us the opportunity to recycle or refurbish them. We have only just started selling so there has been no return as such. But we will be launching this early next year, ”he said.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)
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