UC San Diego scientists make biodegradable surfboards, flip flops

Posted at 6:24 PM, Mar 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-13 21:24:30-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A team of scientists at UC San Diego is getting into the beach business.

"We looked around and said 'what's the most important thing that we could possibly make?" said Biology Professor Stephen Mayfield. "And that answer is obvious. Flip flops and surfboards."

Much more important than the products themselves is what they are made of. Mayfield wants to make plastic products out of more sustainable materials than the traditional petroleum. He says extracting the oil from algae is a much cleaner process. And because it is biodegradable, old and worn-out flip-flops and surfboards won't sit in landfills for thousands of years.

The surfboards are virtually indistinguishable from traditional boards, and only cost about five dollars more. Mayfield says about a dozen professional surfers are already using algae boards in worldwide competition.

His team at UCSD is working with a local manufacturer to bring the boards to market. Mayfield expects them to be ready by the end of spring.

The flip flops are currently in the prototype stage. Mayfield plans to distribute several pairs to UCSD students this summer for testing. He hopes they will be ready for sale to the public by next year.

"My dream would be if we could make all the flip-flops in the world out of this material. This would have an enormous benefit to the planet."

Mayfield's team are experimenting with the chemistry to control how quickly the flip-flops will biodegrade. His plan is to engineer them to last the same as a standard flip-flop.