Young entrepreneur tackles environmental crisis with sustainable sneakers made from waste motorsport tyres
Kickstarter Launch 24 October 2023 - Visit http://kck.st/3FOGzVr
University graduate Alex Witty has unveiled a groundbreaking new brand of sneakers, designed to revolutionise both the motorsport and footwear industries’ approach to sustainability.
Compound Footwear sneakers use waste motorsport tyres, eco leather and recycled materials to create a unique, recyclable solution to the environmental pollution generated by both fast-fashion and tyre waste, where 22 billion shoes end up in landfill and a billion tyres reach the end of their lives each year.
Compound Footwear was founded by 25-year-old Alex Witty from Bath, who was studying Sustainable Product Design at the University of Brighton during the 2020 Covid lockdown.
He said: “As the university facilities were closed due to Covid, it forced me to convert my bedroom into a workshop, where I was recycling materials such as coffee and ocean plastic in rows of panini presses and melting seaweed polymers in the student kitchen. I wasn’t winning any Flatmate of the Year awards that year!
“It was during this time that the Australian Grand Prix was cancelled and I heard that 1,800 brand-new tyres were scrapped and shipped back to the UK to be incinerated. I was shocked to find out that most motorsport tyres are burnt after each race and felt that surely I could find a better use for them.
"Over the past two years, I’ve engaged with tyre manufacturers, shoe producers, material scientists and race series organisers, including Formula 1 and Formula E. I’ve done extensive research and testing of tyre recycling methods, delved into devulcanisation, micronisation and cryogenic grinding, and explored other motorsport waste materials, such as scrap carbon fibre, race suits and motorsport clothing, where 25% of source materials typically go to waste as factory off-cuts.
"Our motorsport-inspired sneakers are made using a patented process to combine used race tyre rubber with recycled natural rubber to create the shoe soles. The uppers are made from waste leather and recycled polyester lining and laces. At the end of their natural life, Compound Footwear sneakers can be recycled into 100% reusable raw materials to make new shoes and products.
“Our objective is to avoid the use of virgin fossil fuels, reduce the number of different materials that make most sneakers un-recyclable, and incorporate sustainable, recycled materials that not only reduce environmental impact, but are also an attractive step towards a cleaner, greener future.
"My sneaker journey has so far taken me to Bahrain, Italy, Spain, Germany and Portugal for shoe making courses, meetings and collaboration talks with world-leading industry experts. I’ve also investigated polyester recycling techniques to create new yarns from waste motorsport clothing to create knitted sneaker uppers, a process that’s still in development.
Compound Footwear’s launch coincides with a growing sustainability push in the tyre and motorsport industries, particularly Formula 1, which has committed to achieving Net Zero Carbon status by 2030.
It has received substantial support from the world of motorsport, as well as funding from Innovate UK, Santander and Verizon amongst others.
As the home of British motorsport we have a responsibility to lead the way with smarter methods of working and are looking to collaborate with partners on new and innovative ideas to help build a sustainable future for our industry. Compound Footwear’s solution to sneaker and race tyre waste along with its mission to create a greener future in motorsport is commendable and we are delighted to be supporting their initiative.Stuart Pringle, Managing Director of Silverstone
I am delighted to have supported Compound Footwear on their commercialisation journey. They are a fantastically innovative company, trail-blazing the use of recycled motorsport materials into sustainable fashion and creating new circular economy pathways within the industry.James Snelgrove of Innovate UK EDGE South West
The first range of Compound Footwear sneakers will launch on October 24th via a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign. Early supporters will enjoy exclusive, limited-edition sneakers and clothing at special early-bird launch prices.
PHOTOGRAPHS: See further images at https://www.dropbox.com/scl/fo/drs317m1sphoknc07hhie/h?rlkey=15er82pu39j9zvx67ydy9kh7m&dl=0
25 billion pairs of shoes are manufactured each year globally using virgin materials, which prove very difficult to recycle owing to their complex design and the number of materials used. A staggering 22 billion pairs end up in landfill, where they release harmful chemicals into the soil and groundwater, causing a global health and waste management crisis.
Shoe production releases as much CO2 into the atmosphere each year as the emissions of 66 million cars, generating a carbon footprint that accounts for 20% of the world’s fashion waste, which produces 10% of all global CO2 emissions - more than all maritime shipping and international flights combined.
Global tyre production creates a waste problem of vast proportions, with 2 billion tyres produced annually (equivalent to 5 million tyres a day) and 1 billion tyres reach the end of their life each year.
Motorsport, including Formula 1, rallying and Indycar, consumes over 600,000 tyres in a single season, most of which become waste after each race, or even just a few laps. Formula 1 alone discards over 40,000 tyres annually, which are sent to UK concrete factories to be incinerated as an alternative source of fuel.