Kids’ Stretch Shoes Aim to Reduce Landfill Waste | Kids clothing

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It’s the Dragons’ Den playground parents dreamed of: a stretchy kids’ shoe that fits long enough to wear out, and it could soon become a reality on the high street.

The average young child needs new shoes every four months, a quick and expensive replacement cycle that sees Brits buying 80 million pairs a year, most of which end up in landfill.

But in 2023, children’s trainers capable of going up at least three half sizes could be in stores after a shoe entrepreneur won backing from the £1million sustainability fund.

Jeroo Doodhmal, founder of eco-shoe brand Pip & Henry, is behind the ‘stretch’ shoe, a product she says could reduce the scale of waste in the UK shoe market where 85% of shoes end up in landfill, according to the Better Shoes Foundation.

“Our goal is to create a shoe that can stretch at least three half sizes, and therefore double the lifespan of any shoe,” she said. The design is aimed at those under the age of seven, a time when children’s feet are growing rapidly.

The 38-year-old businesswoman came up with the idea after her daughter was born. “On the one hand, I was showing her Blue Planet and trying to inspire her from nature, but on the other hand, she was outgrowing clothes and shoes faster than I could recycle them efficiently,” she said.

The most difficult part to achieve will be the sole, and several options are being studied. One is a mechanism that can be extended and secured with a locking piece, like a jigsaw.

Another is to use a flexible material that can be stretched and then locked into position. The upper will be made of an elasticated material and secured with zippers and toggles. The shoes will also likely come with multiple insoles.

The £250,000 grant will be used to complete the design of the sole and its bindings. “I think we’re about a year away from being in stores,” Doodhmal said. “We need to test the prototypes, then submit them to industry experts for feedback…and then come up with a final concept ready for commercial launch.”

To cope with the enormous mountain of waste generated by the shoe industry, the technical experts involved in the project will also study a removable design, making it easier to recycle the shoe at the end of its life.

But the big question is can magic shoes be affordable? Other companies have experimented with sandals and insoles that change the width of a shoe. Doodhmal thinks the answer is yes. “We won’t move the needle on that 85% stat if we don’t bring this concept to the mass market. It is my ambition to reduce costs as much as possible,” she said.

The Pip & Henry shoes cost £60, but she thinks the stretchy design will likely cost up to £20 more. “The funding is big enough to take us all the way,” she added. “I’m very confident that we’ll be able to come up with something really valuable and robust.”

Last year, the John Lewis Partnership, which also owns Waitrose, invited academics, charities and startups to pitch ideas that could end the ‘throwaway’ culture on the high street. Locations with the potential to reduce the environmental impact of the food, clothes and gadgets we buy would receive a share of the money raised from the sale of 10p plastic bags in stores.

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The Circular Future Fund received 245 entries with the four winners set to share their learnings and how their ideas can be scaled. The Scottish Library and Information Council is receiving money to pilot ‘loan and repair spaces’ in libraries so people can share tools, equipment and expertise to repair and reuse household items .

Other winners were the University of Leeds’ Polyester Infinity project, which is investigating how to remove dye from polyester to make the fabric easier to recycle, and vintage branding Dame. Dune will use its cash to fund starter kits and an online counseling service for women trying to transition from traditional products.

Marija Rompani, director of ethics and sustainability at John Lewis, said the projects had the potential to create “real impact”.

“Our throwaway culture and the waste it generates are undoubtedly some of the biggest challenges we will face in our lifetimes and addressing them will require a different kind of thinking.”

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