UC San Diego Team Works to Save Earth a Step at a Time

A group of UC San Diego researchers is working to save the environment, one step at a time.

Two years ago, a team of UCSD students, led by biology professor Stephen Mayfield and Skip Pomeroy, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry. created the world’s first algae-based surfboard.

Then, they began to look at other things made with polyurethane, including flip-flops.

According to the MacArthur Foundation, by the year 2050, there may be as much plastic in the ocean as fish, by weight.

Mayfield said a lot of that plastic comes from lost or discarded flip-flops.

“What a lot of people don’t understand is that as you travel around the world, they’re sort of one of the top 2 or 3 pollutants on the planet,” Mayfield said.

In fact, Mayfield said, more than three billion flip-flops are manufactured and sold worldwide, each year, and they are the number one shoe in China, India, and Africa.

The UCSD team is now working to create an algae-based flip-flop that is both renewable and biodegradable.

“Meaning that when we’re done with these things, some organism can eat them,” Mayfield said.

After months of research, the team unveiled a prototype this week that is 50 percent renewable and biodegradable. They hope to eventually get to 100 percent.

“We can do something about that, and we’re going to,” Mayfield said.

His goal is to have them in stores by next summer.

Contact Us