Certified B Corp Vivobarefoot and Balena are using biomimetic design principles, additive manufacturing methods, and Balena’s BioCir flex material to create circular 3D-printed shoes made from a material that claims to be compostable and recyclable.

Balena’s BioCir flex material is a thermoplastic elastomer that aims to actively reduce reliance on fossil fuel-based materials.

With over 50% bio-based content, the company said the material can replace unsustainable options like TPU, PVC, and LDPE.

Through a biological recycling mechanism, products made from BioCir flex are said to decompose and biodegrade, completing a fully circular life cycle.

Balena explained it had created bio-based and biodegradable material in response to the global crisis of managing plastic waste.

Vivobarefoot pointed out footwear industry report The World Footwear Yearbook claimed that 24 billion pairs of shoes are added to the market every year, leading both companies to acknowledge the significant environmental impact of the industry.

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The integration of 3D printing with advanced bio-based materials aims to combat the footwear waste challenge, facilitating on-demand production, extending product lifespan through personalisation, and ensuring a clear circular end-of-life for used products.

VivoBiome is described by Vivobarefoot as a “scan-to-print digital footwear system,” and the product is currently in the testing phase in the UK with a wear-testing group of so-called “VivoBiome pioneers”. It is expected to be made with Balena’s BioCir within the next six months and be available to customers within the next 18 months.

In 2019, VivoBarefoot’s co-founder Asher Clark delivered a presentation at Biofabricate, unveiling the brand’s commitment to developing regenerative footwear. The talk caught the attention of sustainability entrepreneur David Roubach, which led to the establishment of Balena.

Vivobarefoot’s annual report titled Unfinished Business outlined the company’s plan for the future, as well as an assessment of where the brand is now – including what it believes it could be doing better.

In September, Vivobarefoot and textile-to-textile recycling company Circ entered into a partnership to develop circular solutions to design footwear uppers that could be recycled or upcycled.