Robotically Recyclable Shoe
Designed by Maxwell Ashford
About the project.
By conventional recycling, objects arrive at facilities as unknown entities, with no communication of ingredients, they are fed into shredders smashing objects to smaller pieces which are then attempted to be identified and sorted by countless, painstaking steps. Infinite variations in the composition of objects make it impossible to identify exactly which materials are involved, especially in plastics where sub-variants and full color spectra exist. This inaccuracy of separation results in recycled material of the poorest quality, unable to compete with virgin materials.
Shoes are standardly not recyclable, even by shredding, containing too many materials glued together. Recyclable shoe projects are starting to be released, all focusing on mono-materialization for use with standard shredding recycling facilities. Their uniform material and color allow for verifiable material output during shredding. Whilst this route and the projects are inspiring, shoes gain a lot of their function and durability from being multi-material assemblies, features which can be downgraded by mono-materialization.
Instead, RUEI-01 utilizes the use of new, contemporary tools for recycling. It is designed to be multi-material and recyclable with complete accuracy by use of robotics. All the object information is digitally embedded into it by design, including robotic g.code instructions and exact material information, even down to color codes and factory sources. This allows robots to ‘unmanufacture’ the multi-material shoe, disassembling and separating materials with complete accuracy and providing all the necessary material information to be able to create recycled material of true accuracy.
Creating materials that are of high enough quality to compete with new materials not only reduces the growing amounts of waste and pollution associated with waste disposal, but also prevents the devastating impact on the planet associated with the extraction and production of new materials - especially plastics derived from crude oil.
“I think this project dealt with the future possibilities and practical problems well. In particular, the story of using the structure of the seam of the shoe for up-cycling the shoe so that the robot can recycle - it was very impressive. Especially the presentation method, the photos and the research results were excellent, and it was impressive that they presented a prototype that could actually move.” – Sukwoo Lee
ECAL Lausanne, Switzerland, MA Product Design