A waste-free world requires no production of waste, so years of research have found the ideal solution to be a circular economy. One of the principles of which is to design waste out of the system. In today’s world of glorifying consumption, this often seems like a completely impossible mission. But it is not impossible.
We want to introduce a company Kira Shoes, whose leaders are Sirli Ratasepp and Henry Ratasepp, and which has dedicated years to finding ways to produce shoewear following this principle. They refer to themselves as “tire shoe manufacturers” because that’s how their customers remember them the most. Kira Shoes mission is to produce shoes that make a person feel better because they have contributed to the environment by purchasing something that reduces waste. All the materials used are either recycled or otherwise environmentally friendly.
We sat down with Sirly Ratasepp to find out more.
Where did the idea of making shoes out of old tires come from?
“We know that the problem of used tires is huge. I, personally also, have always been interested in design and art and fashion, but there is a lot of competition. Environmental issues also concern me, and we decided to move in that direction.”
Where do you get your materials? Do you also partner with people who clean up tires from nature? Do you support organizations that collect tires from nature?
„Our materials come from different places, but suppliers who are logistically closer are always preferred. For example, tire soles originally came from Spain, but now in recent months, we have started to source them from Estonia. Felt is made of plastic bottles from Italy, reinforcements for heel and toes heel t are also made of recycled plastic and come from England. If possible, we always use footwear industries’ scraps. Our main partner has accumulated a lot of resources in its warehouses during its 30 years of operation, so our idea is to try and give new life to it. But we do not directly support the collection of tires from nature.“
What have been your biggest challenges?
„Finding materials is one of the biggest challenges. You have to do your homework and find suitable suppliers of materials, and then order samples. This is followed by testing in the laboratory, on a prototype, and then testing in real-life situations. It is all very time-consuming and expensive. Sometimes it is only at the very last stage of testing that it becomes clear that the material has shortcomings and that it still does not fit, even though previous tests went well.“
How have you solved minimizing the waste of your production process?
The soles of Kira Shoes talk of their origins.
„We keep the generation of waste under constant control. We ask our partners to monitor the waste collection system and have entered into agreements with waste management companies that are responsible for waste transportation and handling. Because our production waste is classified as hazardous and non-hazardous, we have taken steps to make sure it’s handled correctly. Hazardous waste is stored in dedicated hazardous waste containers and some of it is sent to waste collection facilities. Leather and textile waste are stored separately. Paper and cardboard are stored in a separate room and sent for recycling. We have restructured our production to reduce energy consumption, too.”
How do you avoid wastefulness when expanding into a new market? So far you have made your products on an order basis. Now that you produce in advance, is the starting point is quite different. Or perhaps not?
„We really like the concept of producing on an order basis. Because we source our products, the work order and any obstacles that still occur in production must be considered, so it has to be planned really well. Sometimes the execution of orders is delayed, and the customer has to wait too long, which is not ideal. We will be launching a new model soon and will not use the pre-order concept. After the test period, we can start to draw conclusions about which method works best – pre-ordering or custom made.“
Do you have a partner in logistics and parcel delivery that adheres to your values?
„Our main logistics partner is a company that offers carbon-neutral parcel transport. We also package our products in boxes made of wastepaper from our region. And we deliberately avoid any lacquer, foil printing, or lamination, to make sure the package stays eco-friendly.“
Thank you for working for a waste-free world, Kira Shoes! We wish you all the best in making waste-free, durable, and sustainable footwear that is made by keeping all the production lines in mind, adding value to waste, and avoiding creating as much waste as possible.
Let’s Do It World works towards a waste-free world and calls millions of people to clean up every year to raise awareness of the waste problem. The first step on this path is to become aware of the problem of waste, after which real actions can be taken. World Cleanup Day is the most visible way to draw attention to the waste problem and it is the catalyst for change. The next steps depend on the opportunities and awareness in a particular place because there are different concerns and bottlenecks around the world.
However, there are creative and active people everywhere-, and companies and initiatives that implement the ideal of a waste-free world. The challenge is common to all of us, so it’s important to work together as much as possible to inspire people through success stories. This article is part of series of such stories, and we sincerely hope that hearing from others helps you to find your way to a waste-free world, too.