Amsterdam turned its littered chewing gum into these sweet shoes

Jelisa Castrodale

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We’re all ridiculously familiar with your great aunt’s favorite citrus-related aphorism. “When life gives you lemons,” blah, blah, blah. But Amsterdam has updated that tired phrase into a more innovative cause-and-effect, suggesting that when life – and thousands of tourists – give you sidewalks covered with chewing gum, you make a pair of sneakers.

It’s not quite as quotable, but it is an incredible idea. Every year, the Dutch capital has to deal with more than 1.5 million kilograms of gum stuck to its streets, sidewalks and other flat surfaces. It’s difficult to clean up, and since gum can take two-plus decades to break down, just leaving it isn’t a solution either.

That’s where these sneakers come in. The Amsterdam Metropolitan area collaborated with Publicis One, shoe retailer Explicit-Wear and gum-recycling experts Gumdrop to design Gumshoe, a pair of kicks with soles that are made from – you guessed it – pieces of discarded gum that have been scraped off the sidewalks. “We discovered gum is made from a synthetic rubber. And by breaking down these properties, we were able to create a new type of rubber,” Anna Bullus, a managing director and designer at Gumdrop, said.

According to Footwear News, it takes a little more than half a pound of gum to make each pair of shoes, and a full 20% of the soles are made from pieces of Bubble Yum and Juicy Fruit that didn’t find their way into a trash can. (The rest of the shoe is made from leather). The surprisingly stylish sneakers are available in bubble gum pink and red-and-black colorways, and both variations have a map of Amsterdam molded onto the bottom of the soles.

“Amsterdam Metropolitan Area wants to show people all the beauty the city has to offer. More rules and regulations to fight the chewing gum problem would only be contrary to their mission,” Publicis One creative director Mischa Schreuder told Adweek.  “In addition to increasing awareness, this will also create sympathy and genuine motivation to solve the chewing gum problem together. This way, we will gain much more impact.”

That “let’s do this together” sentiment was reflected by Mustafa Tanriverdi from the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. “With these sneakers, we make people part of the problem, or rather of the solution,” he said.

The Gumshoes will be available for sale in June and, if you haven’t planned a trip to the Netherlands, you can pre-order them online. But dang, walking around on somebody else’s chewing gum isn’t cheap: each pair retails for €199.95 ($239). We’d love to hear what our lemonade-making great aunt would say about that.


Jelisa Castrodale

About Jelisa Castrodale

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