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Trail runner, artist, and filmmaker Max Romey has long been concerned with the amount of refuse that floats ashore in his home state of Alaska. As a frequent volunteer with Ocean Plastics Recovery Project, he knows the Alaskan shores can grind that debris to bits, eventually churning it into microplastics.
In his newly released “No Lost Shoes” film co-produced in conjunction with Kilian Jornet’s NNormal footwear brand, Romey exposes the full scope of the problem by focusing on one type of debris that regularly washes ashore—shoes.
“Alaska’s like a cheese grater,” Romey says. “One of the first times I went out there, I saw just the scope of how quickly this landscape can break these things down into microplastics. And once they’re broken down, there’s nothing you can do.”
In the film, Romey highlights, collects, and illustrates hundreds of shoes he finds washed ashore at Katmai National Park and Preserve. In doing so, he tells a story about how the footwear industry has inadvertently become one of the biggest ocean polluters in the world because people discard old shoes.
How can that massive problem start to be fixed? For Romey and NNormal, it’s about taking small creative steps that include messaging, changing manufacturing norms, and developing products that can be repaired, recycled, and reused.
“I used to think that these massive issues that are coming down the pipeline would be something that would take an enormous solution, but the more that I learn and the more that I see, I’m realizing that these huge issues are going take a lot of little solutions to add up, to fixing them,” Romey says.” It’s a little bit more heartening when you can actually see those solutions happening. It’s gonna take just a ton of people and a lot of creativity to find what those solutions are. NNormal is a small solution in the grand scheme of things, but it’s really fun to actually do something and start to make an impact. It’s great to share why it’s so important that shoes are more than something that’s just disposable.”