€2,500 Irish James Dyson award goes to ingenious ‘everlasting shoe’

5 Sep 2018

The Layer shoe concept and accompanying parts. Image: Evan Stuart/James Dyson Award

An ‘everlasting shoe’ that would be biodegradable has been named the winner of the Irish leg of the 2018 James Dyson award.

With obscene levels of plastic pollution occurring across the globe, millions of people are now calling for more biodegradable and recyclable alternatives.

For 23-year-old Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) student Evan Stuart, the eye-opener for him was learning that more than 300m pairs of shoes are thrown into landfill each year, never to be recycled.

With this knowledge, he developed an ‘everlasting shoe’ concept called Layer made from biodegradable parts. For his efforts, he has now been named as the winner of the Irish leg of the 2018 James Dyson award worth €2,500.

The international award encourages young inventors to bring forward ideas that could potentially change the world.

For nine months, Stuart developed hundreds of different concepts before eventually reaching his final design. “In my mind, I had five key criteria to make this work: a shoe that would be recyclable, repairable, customisable, sustainable and eco-friendly,” he said.

“At the same time, they had to look great and be comfortable or no one would wear them.”

Every component is replaceable

The shoe uses biodegradable and recycled materials with removable and replaceable soles, uppers and insoles. Every single component of the shoe is repairable so that when one part reaches the end of its life, the person can repair and even personalise their shoes.

“If there is a mark on one part of one shoe, rather than throwing away a perfectly good shoe and one with a scratch or tear on just one part, you simply order that new part,” Stuart added.

If his design makes it to stores, a customer would buy the shoe fully assembled with four key components: uppers, soles, insoles and fastening lace.

Speaking of the design, the judges said they were “impressed by the pragmatism and vision shown in the preparation and engineering process of this concept”.

With this victory, Stuart becomes the first DIT student to have won the Irish leg in the 14 years of the competition, and will now proceed to the international stage where he will hope to win the grand prize of €35,000 for his idea.

Other Irish finalists

Stuart is not the only one representing Ireland for the international finals, however, as two other Irish inventions were shortlisted.

One of these is a team of four, also from DIT, made up of Olivia Holbrook, Jane Devine, Jack Griffin and Rachael Ryan, who have developed Tide. Using locally sourced materials, the Tide device is designed to provide a reusable and universal menstrual option for refugee women. The team is currently working with Engineers Without Borders and Concern Worldwide to develop the Tide kit.

The other entry is Mylo, which was developed by Institute of Technology Carlow student Dylan Fitzpatrick. The friendly-looking device is designed to use fun games and activities to promote playful learning and develop motor skills for children with cerebral palsy.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic