How To Recycle And Donate Old Shoes
Here are the best options for recycling shoes or donating shoes to keep them out of landfill.
You’ll find plenty of options for recycling, donating and reusing ALL types of shoes including sneakers, high heels, work boots, and even single shoes, saving them from the trash.
Unwanted shoes, worn out sneakers, work boots, pumps that have seen better days, plus shoes that maybe never fitted quite right or were only worn once for a special event.
We are probably all guilty of hanging on to more shoes than we want or need and the statistics on shoes heading to landfill are astounding and they can take 30-40 years to breakdown.
According to this article, Americans throw away 300 million pairs of shoes a year and Australians are probably not far behind.
We tend to hear a lot about fast fashion and it’s impacts on the environment but not so much about our shoe obsessions.
With the emergence of online shoe stores and great bargains over the past several years, this has only increased the amount of shoes sold each year…..and sadly, most people are collecting them or throwing them out.
I hunted around quite a bit to try and find useful resources to deal with all our outgrown kids shoes, completely wrecked and unwearable shoes along with poor fitting or no longer loved shoes.
We aren’t exactly big shoe collectors and are pretty minimal in this area, but there is a time when repairing or donating old shoes is simply not an option.
How Often Should You Replace Everyday Shoes
The answer to this question lies in your shoes. Different shoes have different lifespans, so it depends on the model and material of your shoes as well as how often you wear them.
Some people say that shoes have to be replaced every 500 to 600 kilometres, even though they may not seem to be worn out. However, I’m not so sure about that. A typical pair of leather dress shoes will last about five years if properly maintained. Shoes with rubber soles usually last around three years. And if shoes are kept in a dry location and fixed before they become “uncomfortable or painful,” then shoes can last up to ten years.
The most important element of a good shoe is stability, and if your shoes no longer provide stability nor comfort, you may even injure yourself. So long story short, the general rule of thumb is that if your shoes start causing any pain or discomfort before you’ve had them for one year or if you fixed them and they start causing pain again, it’s probably time to replace them.
If They Can’t Be Saved See If They Can Get New Life In Another Form
If your shoes are truly beat and you can’t fathom another person loving them a good rule of thumb is that if the uppers are still in good condition, the shoe can have a second life toss them into a recycling bin instead of the trash. Footwear recycling is not nearly as common as clothes recycling , because shoes are more complex. However, there area handful of programs attempting it. And the options are expected to grow in the next few years.
Nike’s Reuse a Shoe program, running since 1993, recycles worn out sneakers by any brand. They’ve processed 33 million pairs of shoes to date. After separating the shoes into leather, foam, plastic and rubber, the pieces are ground down and reused as surfacing for playgrounds, track tops, carpet padding and even new Nike gear, like maybe the soles of your Air Jordans. You can get in on the action by dropping your shoes at participating Nike and Converse Factory stores .
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You can also take beat-up shoes by anybrand to Columbia stores and participating Asics stores . These in-store take back programs are run by I:CO, a global waste handler whose parent company opened the world’s first industrial-scale shoe recycling facility in 2018, which is working to find solutions for any kind of shoe waste, according to a company rep via email. Recently I:CO partnered with Adidas to turn bits of rubber from running shoes into rugs, for example.
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What Are Some Benefits Of Recycling Your Old Shoes
The reasons for not recycling old shoes are few and far between, especially with all of the ways to donate them while supporting good causes worldwide. But its also an eco-friendly thing to do, because it reduces landfill waste, and it prevents shoes from decomposing into the soil. Decomposed organic materials such as leather release methane which, in turn, contributes to climate change.
Youll also decrease your carbon footprint, and youll potentially give new life to a product you no longer need while supporting the worlds developing and impoverished nations.
Meanwhile, donating shoes has a major impact worldwide in many ways, including that it helps prevent soil-transmitted infections such as hookworm and threadworm. People without shoes develop lacerations and are at a higher risk of developing infections that can lead to larger medical issues.
Even a new pair of laces can spruce up older shoes, and you can sew patches to cover tears on canvas shoes.
Or, you dye your used canvas shoes with a new shade to give them a new look.
Whatever method you choose, be sure to donate or recycle them when youre finally ready to bid them farewell.
What Else Can You Do
One of the best things you can do is look after what you already own. Look after the shoes and sneakers you already have and make them last as long as possible. This also helps reduce the overall output in the world.
There are many ways you can make sure your old running shoes or boots get as much life as possible, including:
- Clean them regularly. Its good to keep the dirt off them to keep them looking good. Dirt and grime can also degrade the materials if left.
- If you have leather, use a soft brush to remove dirt and grime, and regularly use a leather moisturizer.
- If the stitching is coming loose, resew it or take it to a repair shop. They can even fix the sole if it needs gluing.
- One lesson I learned with my last pair of sneakers is to take the time to undo the laces when you are putting them on or taking them off. I was a bit lazy and would just pull my shoes off. Now, unfortunately, the back is damaged.
- If your shoes are not as comfortable, why not use an insole? You can even buy recycled insoles from OrthoLite®. You should be able to get them through many sports stores or chemists.
There are many other ways you can spruce up an old pair of shoes. You can paint them with fabric paint, dye them, sew patches on them, or even get a new sole put on them. Whichever way you do it, try and give your favorite shoes the longest life you can by looking after them.
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Recycling Mystery: How To Recycle Your Tennis Shoes
You jog in them. Compete in them. Maybe even meet your friend for lunch in them. They add an extra bounce to your step and urge you to take the stairs instead of the elevator. When the last thing you want to do is wake up for that morning run, they are there for you.
They have a special place in your closet and your heart. They are your tennis shoes. But what happens once youve loved them to death?
Even though we get lots of life out of our shoes, the U.S. Department of the Interior reports that Americans throw away at least 300 million pairs of shoes annually. In a landfill, it takes 30 years for shoes to decompose.
There are two methods for keeping sneakers out of landfills: donation and recycling.
When Should You Throw Away A Pair Of Shoes
Ok so, your shoes are completely destroyed and you’ve had them for so long that they look like mummies of their former selves… What can you do? If neither donating, recycling nor upcycle is an option, then I’m afraid it may be time to throw away those old shoes.
However, the only instance in which you should throw them away is if they are rotten inside with a foul smell if they have irreparable damage because your dog thought it was a chew toy, or something similar. In most cases, you can always save an old shoe from ending up in a landfill, but if it meets those conditions, it’s a dead giveaway to throw in the towel.
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Repair Your Shoes At Home
If there isnt a cobbler near you, or your budget doesnt support a more substantial repair, you can always try to repair your shoes at home . Here are some tactics you can use for some DIY shoe operations:4
- Fix holes with an adhesive Dedicated shoe glue can help you patch up damages to your footwear. Use this to fix holes, fraying fabric, or reattach soles and heels. You can also use certain adhesives to protect shoes from the rain, saving you both money and a soggy shoe.
- Revive shoe leather with polishes and dyes Leather shoe polish can help minimize scuffs and marks, making your leather shoes look brand new. Likewise, a dye can help restore the color of your footwear to make them look like theyre fresh out of the box.
- Clean stains with a fabric cleaner Sometimes, the aged look of our shoes is accumulated from dirt and grass stains that buildup over time. There are several shoe fabric cleaners with brushes you can use to scrub away stains and brighten up your sneaker fabrics.
Australia And New Zealand
Shoes for Planet Earth If you have shoes in reasonable shape clean, no holes, and the soles are in good condition. You can donate them to Shoes for the Planet. Find a drop-off location here.
Rebel Sports Stores has partnered with the Nike Reuse-A-Shoe program check with your local store before you head down .
The Australian Sporting Goods Association has partnered with Save our Souls to run a pilot sports shoe recycling program. Its currently only in Victoria. They recycle our old worn-out sneakers into playground and sporting surfaces, gym mats, and retail flooring.
Recycling bins are available in Rebel, JD Sports, SportsPower, and Myer plus Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Converse, GloBe, and ASICS. To find out what to do with your old runners, check out their locator.
Upparel If your shoes have seen better days, then try Upparel. They accept any quality shoes, but only in pairs. AND! If you organize a pick-up, you can donate up to 10kg of clothing and get a discount on some eco-friendly socks too. You can book to have your clothes and old shoes picked up here.
Bared Footwear in Victoria takes your old pre-loved shoes. They accept any brand, and you can even post them into them. Find the details here.
Total Workwear Recycle boots from Aussie Tradies. The only catch is you have to buy a new pair from them. Find their details here.
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What Types Of Shoes Can Be Recycled
Generally, you can recycle any type of shoe. However, what you can and cannot recycle will be dependent on each service for recycling.
For example, Nike and similar programs only recycle athletic sneakers. Some brands may just recycle their own specific brand of shoes. Other programs, such as with TerraCycle, give more leeway in the type of shoes that can be recycled.
After knowing the types of shoes that can be recycled, you need to factor in the conditions of the product. Programs aiming to truly recycle the shoes will take them in any condition. Donation stations, on the other hand, will only accept gently used shoes that can be reused by someone else.
Donate And Recycle Your Old Sports Shoes At 100 Collection Points From 5 July
The growing wave of calls for healthier living and eco-friendly initiatives have been followed by change on a remarkable scale, where Singaporeans from all walks of life are starting to make changes to their lifestyles in order to be more sustainable. Starting 5 July, Singaporeans can take the next step towards eco-friendliness by donating and recycling their used sports shoes at 100 collection points islandwide.
Locations include Active SG sport centres and stadiums, Decathlon outlets, schools, and tertiary institutions. Singaporeans are encouraged to donate their old shoes, which will be recycled and repurposed into new infrastructure materials such as jogging tracks, playgrounds, or fitness corners. Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu said that Singapore is adopting a circular economy approach to waste management, and that the team sees waste not as something to be thrown away, but as a precious resource to be harvested.
Last year, Sport Singapore and Dow partnered to upcycle 300,000 used shoes into public sports infrastructure. This year, this initiative aims to collect and recycle 170,000 pairs of shoes such as sports shoes, school shoes, football boots without metal studs, and rubberised slippers and sandals without metal parts. The rubberised soles and midsoles will be ground into granules which will then be bound together by a water-based and solvent-free binder technology.
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Are All Clothes Recyclable
Yes. You can recycle almost anything.
From old clothes & shoes to belts, purses, caps & hats, backpacks, etc.
Recycling old clothes is extremely beneficial since:
- It can reduce a lot of waste that is usually going to the landfills
- It can benefit charities and others, by adding value to waste products
- It can reduce the carbon footprint
- It provides financial incentive and employment around the world
Selling And Swapping Shoes You No Longer Want
You can try selling your shoes online or at a garage sale, but this option takes time and effort…. and unless they are a sought after brand, you may just find you are permanently stuck with them.
I hate having garage sales, and the last one we had several years ago, a lady with incredibly dirty feet came and tried on all the shoes I was selling. I then had to clean them all thoroughly before donating.
> Shoe Bank
Bored of your shoes and want to swap?
Shoe Bank offers a great solution where members upload photos and details of their shoes for a swap. Once you find a pair , the person receiving the shoes just pays for shipping.
This is such a fabulous idea for high heels or pumps in particular, that may only be worn once or a few times for a special event. If you’re partial to shoes this will enable you to regularly mix up your collection of shoes without continually purchasing new items. Head here to learn more.
> Shoe Swap
Selling and Buying odd shoes may sound a little strange BUT if you’ve lost a shoe it’s a great way to make a single shoe useful again.
This is also really helpful for people with differently sized feet – they need to buy two pairs just to have a fitting pair.
Another important reason shoe swaps work is an issue you may never have even thought about – amputees who only really want one shoe have to buy a pair when they visit a shoe store.
> Host a Shoe Swap Party
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Donate Your Old Sneakers In Your Community
Unfortunately, the U.S. has a homeless crisis, and the pandemic didnt help matters. Nearly 175,000 people are homeless in the U.S. About 17,000 people live on their streets, cars, or in places not intended to be homes. In other words, theres a lot of need out there. So, while you might not need your sneakers, there are people in your community who could use the athletic shoes.
If you have sneakers you dont need, including those for children, contact homeless shelters in your community. You could also reach out to food banks and other crisis centers, including domestic violence shelters. If the first place you call isnt accepting sneakers and shoes, ask them to refer you.
Tips On Shoe Recycling In Australia
We always want to find an environmentally friendly way to dispose of our worn-out items. Shoes are no different. Recycling them might seem a little difficult because, unlike glass or cardboard, you cannot put shoes in your kerbside recycling bin.
But there are other available recycling options you can do to get them out of your hands in a responsible way. In the following sections, I will discuss everything about shoe recycling in Australia and what we can do to avoid it going into landfills.
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Ways To Properly Recycle Your Sneakers
Theres no one way to properly recycle old sneakers . You might think your running shoes are ratty beyond use, but we can guarantee theres still a life for your athletic sneakers out there somewhere. Just imagine what you could do if you steered your unwanted athletic shoe pairs towards a purpose like a shoe drive .
Need help brainstorming some ways to properly recycle your old shoes? Here are four options to choose from:
- Recycle sneakers to turn their materials into new products.
- Donate your good condition shoes to a local organization for others to wear and enjoy.
- Repair shoes and give them a new life by taking them to a cobbler.
- Upcycle your good condition shoes and modify them into a new sustainable fashion.