Crocs first became popular about 10 years ago, but a recent resurgence has led them to become even more popular than they were before.
People love Crocs because they are easy to just slip on, in addition to being comfortable and available in so many colors (and new styles as well).
But are Crocs eco-friendly? This is an important question to ask considering how many of them are being produced to keep up with their popularity.
As of right now, Crocs are not eco-friendly because of the material they are made of. However, the company is actively working on initiatives to make the shoes more eco-friendly.
For a more detailed answer, please continue reading. You’ll learn exactly what Crocs are made of and why they aren’t eco-friendly as of right now, as well as some of the initiatives that the company is taking to increase their eco-friendliness.
1. Are Crocs Made of Plastic or Rubber?
According to their website, Crocs are made from a material that they call Croslite. Croslite is described as a ‘closed-cell resin.’
From a chemistry standpoint, resins are unprocessed plastic polymers. However, the Croslite material doesn’t have the typical texture that we think of plastics as having.
The Croslite material seems more like foam or rubber than it does plastic. And as a matter of fact, the term ‘closed-cell’ actually does refer to one of the ways that foam is produced.
Closed-cell foam is foam in which the cells are enclosed by walls and aren’t connected to other cells. It is denser and firmer than open-cell foam and is designed to keep substances such as liquids out.
One way you could describe the material that Crocs are made out of is foam rubber. But even though the texture does seem more like rubber than plastic, Croslite is essentially a type of plastic known as EVA.
EVA is a thermoplastic material, made from combining two types of plastic monomers: ethylene and vinyl acetate.
2. How Are Crocs Made?
The process used to make the actual shoe is injection molding.
Injection molding is a type of manufacturing process that is typically used to make products out of thermoplastic materials such as EVA, especially when a product needs to be made on a large-scale basis.
With injection molding, the mold has to be made first. It is usually made from aluminum or steel, but designed for the specific product you are trying to make. In the case of Crocs, the mold is shaped like the shoe itself.
To make the shoe, the EVA material is heated until it melts. Once it melts, it is poured or injected into the mold.
The material is then allowed to cool, at which point it takes the shape of the mold. Then, it is removed from the mold, usually with the use of injector pins.
The makers of the Crocs then inspect and put any finishing touches on them, then package them up to be shipped out and sold.
3. Are Crocs Eco-Friendly?
However, EVA is still a type of plastic, and plastics of any kind are generally not eco-friendly since they are made from non-renewable resources.
The non-renewable resource that plastics come from is crude oil, which has to be collected and refined in order to make it useable.
Both the collection of crude oil and the refinement of it can cause pollution and environmental hazards such as oil spills.
Once the crude oil has been refined, it has to be combined with other chemicals as well to create the polymers that are used to create the actual product. In the case of Crocs, ethylene and vinyl acetate have to be created and then combined.
As far as how the Crocs themselves are made, the process of injection molding is more eco-friendly than how EVA is made since injection molding is mostly a mechanical process.
However, injection molding is not completely eco-friendly because of the amount of water and energy used for hydraulic injection molding. Injection molding machines that are powered by electricity can save energy, so they are a little more eco-friendly.
It is worth noting that Crocs are more eco-friendly than other types of footwear, as they have a lower carbon footprint.
Crocs are also undertaking initiatives to make that carbon footprint even lower, such as switching to bio-based materials to make their Croslite. They hope to achieve this goal by the year 2030.
4. Are Crocs Recyclable?
From a consumer standpoint, Crocs are not recyclable. EVA is a type of number 7 plastic, which means that it is more complex to recycle and usually isn’t accepted through curbside or municipal recycling programs.
That’s not to say that it won’t happen in the future, but more research needs to be done. A lot of recycling facilities have trouble recycling EVA to have the same qualities as it did before it was recycled.
However, manufacturing facilities that use a lot of EVA (like Crocs) can sometimes recycle it because the cost of recycling is worth it due to the amount of EVA that they have.
According to the Crocs website, they recycle 45% of the scrap that is used to make their Croslite material.
They also donate unsold Crocs to people in need (saving 20,000 pairs from landfills in 2020) and are looking for ways to increase the recycling of Crocs.
5. Are Crocs Sustainable?
Crocs aren’t completely sustainable as long as they are made from EVA and remain difficult to recycle. Since the crude oil that EVA is derived from is a non-renewable resource, it will eventually run out.
This is especially true when you consider all of the other types of plastic that are made from it.
But even though Crocs aren’t the most sustainable right now, this is another area in which the company is actively trying to improve.
As previously mentioned, one of the things they’re working to change is switching to bio-based materials to make their shoes.
However, this can be an extensive process that involves a lot of research and trial-and-error, which is why the timeline for making the switch isn’t until 2030.
As for right now though, Crocs are trying to be more sustainable by reducing the amount of packaging that they use to ship their Crocs, in addition to switching to sustainable versions of the packaging that they do use.
6. Are Crocs Biodegradable?
Crocs are not biodegradable since they are made from a plastic material. Plastics do not decompose easily or quickly, so they are considered to be non-biodegradable materials.
However, if Crocs does intend to switch to bio-based materials to make the shoes out of, it is very possible that they will be biodegradable in the future if they are able to achieve this.
7. Are Crocs Compostable?
Since Crocs are not biodegradable, they are not compostable either. Composting is still a form of biodegradation, it is just more human-controlled.
If you put Crocs in your compost, they will still be there many years later. But again, if and when the company makes the switch to bio-based materials, the shoes might be compostable in the future.
8. Are Crocs Toxic?
Crocs are non-toxic and are safe to wear. EVA that Crocs are made of is actually considered to be a safe alternative to PVC.
Unlike PVC, EVA is free of BPA and phthalates, both of which are thought to cause cancer in humans.
9. Are Crocs Vegan?
Crocs have not always been vegan due to using leather in some of their products.
However, they have pledged to stop using leather in their products with the purpose of being completely vegan by the end of 2021.
10. Are Crocs Made Ethically?
There is no evidence that points to Crocs being made in a way that is unethical. Crocs are a worldwide brand, with over 4,000 employees worldwide.
Most of their factories and corporate locations are in countries that are considered to be developed. In addition, they provide a wide range of benefits and programs for their employees.
Some of the things that Crocs employees receive include health and wellness programs, paid time off, and financial wellness programs.
They also provide professional development opportunities and employee recognition programs.
11. Are Crocs Antimicrobial?
There has been research that EVA can have antimicrobial properties against certain types of bacteria when a filler is added to the EVA.
However, the Crocs website doesn’t specifically say that Crocs are antimicrobial, and there is little research available to say that they are.
Even though it is unlikely that Crocs are antimicrobial, they can be easily cleaned with just soap and water.
12. Are Crocs Durable?
Crocs are durable as long as they are taken care of, cleaned, and stored properly when they aren’t being worn.
Crocs should not be exposed to prolonged sunlight or heat – even from hot water – because it can cause the foam material to shrink and warp.
13. How Do You Dispose of Crocs Properly?
Since Crocs can’t be recycled yet and won’t biodegrade, the only way to dispose of them is to throw them away. But, this is not ideal because they will go to a landfill.
Instead, you can donate Crocs as long as they are in good condition. But, you should thoroughly clean them first.
Crocs has also partnered with Soles4Souls. You can donate your Crocs (or other shoes) to Soles4Souls and they will clean them, then distribute them all over the world to people in need.
14. The 3 Most Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Crocs
Crocs is trying to make their shoes from more eco-friendly materials as soon as 2022.
But until they actually do, here are some more eco-friendly brands to check out.
Allbirds uses materials such as wool, plastic bottles, and castor bean oil to create their sneakers, and their production processes use 60% less energy to make their shoes.
They are dedicated to sustainability and are even certified by the Forest Stewardship Council as well.
2. Toms Earthwise
The Earthwise line from Toms are the same style of shoe as their originals, but they are made from more eco-friendly materials including recycled polyester and EVA soles made from sugarcane instead of plastic.
Toms is also a Certified B Corporation due to their efforts to help the environment and they also donate ⅓ of their profits to grassroots organizations and efforts.
3. Ponto Footwear
Although their shoes aren’t exactly the same style as Crocs, Ponto Footwear shoes have a similar texture and feel.
The shoes are made from recycled and bio-based materials, plus they donate a portion of their proceeds to the Changing Tides Foundation to help protect the oceans.
As of right now, Crocs are not the most eco-friendly shoe.
But the good news is that the company seems to be aware of the need to be more eco-friendly and is actively working to change the way their shoes are designed.
Hopefully, their initiatives are successful and Crocs will be more eco-friendly in as little as a few years.
But until then, you can be more eco-friendly by getting the most use out of your Crocs as possible, then donating them to be used by someone else.