Waste management is a big headache in many countries. Ironically, that same waste is full of diverse business opportunities. I strongly believe that in Zimbabwe, we have barely scratched the surface in matters of turning waste into cash. We have had discussions on issues to do with waste, waste management, and how there is money in those domains. One of the most recent articles I did was regarding the impending plastic bags ban in December in Zimbabwe. This only adds more weight to the need for us to add value to plastic waste. One way of doing that is by making shoes from plastic. That is the focus of this article.

The Rationale For Recycling Plastic Into Shoes

Getting Rid Of Plastic Waste Is A High Priority Issue

When it comes to environmental issues, plastic waste is one of the most problematic areas. Plastics are typically non-biodegradable, which makes them difficult to get rid of. Plastic waste has also been found to affect the livelihood of domestic animals and wildlife negatively. There are countless instances when animals ingest plastics, mistaking them for food. That usually leads to animal health complications and even mortalities. Wherever you go in Zimbabwe, you will realize that most of the waste you see lying around is plastics.

That is why the government has decided to ban plastic bags by the end of 2022. The truth is there are loads of plastic waste but it can be useful. The greatest chunk of plastic waste is recyclable, either for reuse or being made into other products. Plastic is, by nature, lightweight and easy to rehash. This presents infinite possibilities for products that can be made from plastic waste. One such product is shoes, either in part or wholly.

Creating A Recycling Loop

Ideally, everyone wears shoes and owns more than one pair. It is commonplace to have shoes getting worn out and disposed of. You might recall that I once did an article on trash-to-cash business ideas. I highlighted that shoes, just like old tyres, are a notable waste problem in Zimbabwe. This, again, is like plastic because of its non-biodegradability. One way to address that is by making easily recyclable shoes. Plastic is much easier to recycle than rubber. This solidifies a case for making shoes from plastic. That is why making shoes from plastic waste would make sense because they can be recycled later.

Better Chances Of Access To Capital

Environmental sustainability issues are a top priority for most governments nowadays. Even the private sector is keenly interested in bankrolling initiatives meant for environmental social governance (ESG). That is why a business or startup focused on ESG stands a good chance of getting funding. Other businesses or startups are also willing to invest in such. This is because it boosts their ESG scores, thus building a positive brand image. By starting an enterprise that makes shoes from plastic waste, you will most likely get funding and support.

Plastic-Based Shoes Have Preferable Qualities

The possible approaches to making shoes from plastic waste are many. However, there are certain qualities that are typically due to the nature of plastic. For example, plastic is lightweight, which means the shoes will be lightweight. This is a preferable quality since it infuses comfort. This is particularly needed for sporting shoes, as an example. Another aspect is that plastic is, by nature, usually thin and non-absorbent.

This means water is usually easy to remove or evaporates faster from a plastic surface. Imagine a shoe made wholly from plastic; that would imply it can dry much faster than traditional fabric-based shoes. All this has a bearing on shoe hygiene as well, in a positive way. Plastic is flexible and somewhat elastic, making it easier to pack your shoes. These are some of the qualities that make plastic-based shoes superior to traditional ones.

Possible Approaches To Making Shoes From Plastic Waste

There are two core approaches which can be handled in an infinite number of ways. One, plastic waste can be recycled into whole shoes, i.e. shoes made 100 percent from plastic. I know of a company that actually makes shoes wholly from recycled plastic water containers. Two, plastic waste can be recycled into parts of a shoe. For instance, plastic waste can be made into shoe soles. It is also possible to make shoelaces from recycled plastic waste.

These approaches sound so simple but the possibilities of what you can do are endless.

Here in Zimbabwe, there are two things aspiring entrepreneurs can do. One, they can engage in research initiatives to see how they can turn plastic waste into shoes. Two, they can simply fast follow what other already established brands out there are doing. Some of the noteworthy global brands are Astral, TropicFeel, Suavs, Vionic, Timberland, Rens, and Rothy’s.

This is a subject that should excite many of you. The Zimbabwean context is perfect for coming up with plastic-based shoes made from recycled plastic waste. I believe this has the potential to be disruptive and highly lucrative in Zimbabwe. Trash truly can be cash; it is high time we take this seriously in Zimbabwe.