SAN DIEGO — UC San Diego scientists have created the world’s first fully biodegradable, compostable flip flops made out of algae oil.

The flip flops are not for sale just yet, but the company behind them, Algenesis, said its mission is to change the world one step at a time.

“If we cannot figure out how to make plastics biodegradable, I don’t know what happens to this planet,” said Dr. Steven Mayfield, a professor of biology at UC San Diego and one of the inventors of algae flip flops.

Dr. Mayfield said it is important to create materials that are biodegradable because “if we look at this planet and what we have done to it for 50 years, I think everyone recognizes we cannot continue to live the way we are.”

How are the flip flops made?

“The flip flops are not just a single oil. We have to mix several together. That is our secret sauce,” said Dr. Mayfield.

The mixed sauce is placed in a machine and then poured into a waffle like iron that creates a flip flop. Even the color used on the footwear is biodegradable.

Will the flip flops biodegrade on a person’s feet while they are wearing them?

Dr. Mayfield said you need the right conditions and within two years they are gone. He said three things help: 1) material that biodegrades, 2) microorganism that can eat it and 3) water.  

“When you want these to degrade, put these in a compost pile where they’ll stay wet all the time. If you don’t want them to degrade, just dry them out and they’ll be safe,” he said.

Dr. Mayfield said the mindset hast o change when it comes to purchasing products.

“It is not just the cost of the actual bag you buy, but what’s the cost of the environment when you throw that bag away,” he said.

Well known shoe companies are working with Algenesis, but Dr. Mayfield said he could not reveal the names of companies. They hope to have the flip flops on sale in the UC San Diego bookstore by Christmas with a full launch in 2020.

The price will be around $50.