Flexible foam materials like yoga mats and flip-flop soles may feel nice and squishy under your feet, but they’re hiding a dark and very eco-unfriendly secret: they’re made of petrochemicals. The non-biodegradable, non-renewable materials may soon be overtaken by Bloom, a foam material derived from all natural algae.
Bloom is the result of a collaboration between Algix, a producer of algae byproducts, and Effekt, a developer of eco-friendly materials. The process involves harvesting algae biomass from U.S. and Asian waste streams. The algae they use is abundant, quick-growing, not a food source, and generally seen as an environment-clogging nuisance, so harvesting and using it is kind of a win-win for everyone.
After harvest, the algae is dried and mixed with natural compounds to form the soft and flexible foam material. The foams contain 15% – 60% algae; the exact specifications depend on the intended application.
Aside from yoga mats and shoes, planned applications include surf traction, bath toys, packaging, and luggage. The material goes into production in the U.S. and Asia in early 2016.