World’s first algae-based flip flops, created by UC San Diego

algae-based flip flops

algae-based flip flops

The world’s first algae-based, renewable flip flops created by UC San Diego students and researchers. They are trying to curb the number of petroleum-based flip flops. Currently, 3 billion petroleum-based flip flops produced worldwide each year. Eventually ending up as non-biodegradable trash in landfills, rivers and oceans around the globe. Their solution is the world’s first algae-based, Eco-friendly pair of flip flops.

“Even though a flip flop seems like a minor product. A throwaway that everyone wears, it turns out the number one shoe in the world,” Stephen Mayfield, a professor of biology at UCSD, said. In India, China and Africa, the flip flop are the most popular shoe.

Flip flops are responsible for a large amount of the polyurethane that ends up in the ocean. But, researchers originally set their sights on the pollution caused by surfboards.

Two years ago, researchers designed an algae-based, biodegradable surfboard. They teamed up with a local surfboard blanks manufacturer, Arctic Foam of Oceanside, to produce the board.

The algae surfboard is the first obvious product to make, but when you really look at the numbers you realize that making a flip-flop or shoe sole like this is much more important, says Mayfield.


Petroleum is formed by ancient plant material like algae, but the chemical potential for petroleum present in living algae. By converting living algae into petroleum and then into polyurethane, researchers pulling carbon from the atmosphere instead of taking it out of reserves in the ground. This is what makes their algae-based polyurethane more sustainable.

Researchers also working to make the carbon bonds in their polyurethane more bio-degradable. So, that microorganisms can more easily break them down.

To take their research to market, researchers formed a new company called Algenesis Materials. Their first product is the Triton flip flop. The researchers hope to continue perfecting the chemistry behind the Triton flip flop and use it to make more Eco-friendly shoe soles, car seats and more.

The idea we’re pursuing is to make these flip-flops in a way that they can throw into a compost pile and they will eat by micro-organisms, said, Mayfield.

Algae-based surfboards have already become popular in the surfing industry, and researchers hope their latest efforts will have a similar impact on the shoe industry.