More than 25 million pairs of sports shoes are imported into Australia and according to the Australian Sporting Goods Association, just one percent are recycled.
Where do the majority of old, worn out running shoes and socks end up if they aren’t good enough to donate to charity? Thrown in the rubbish bin of course.
But in recent years, with rising awareness of environmental issues and increased business focus on circular economy, a growing number of sock and shoe recycling options have emerged to divert valuable materials from landfills and make them available for reuse.
If you’re based in Australia, here are five ways to recycle your pair of worn sports shoes and socks if they are unsuitable (torn, falling apart and super worn) for donating to op-shops:
Launched in 2009, Australian non-for-profit organisation, Shoes For Planet Earth collects used sports shoes and runners to provide to underprivileged folks in Australia and New Zealand, and in the developing regions of Africa and Asia.
There are a number of conditions to meet before donating sports shoes to the organisation:
- They only accept sports shoes; think tennis shoes, basketball shoes and running shoes.
- They need to have good soles and have no holes since they are bound for a new home and no want wants to receive torn shoes with ripped soles, even if second-hand.
- They must be clean so make sure to hand scrub them or throw them in the washing machine prior to donating (dry them in the sun, don’t tumble dry).
- Only matching pairs are accepted, not individual shoes.
- Make sure to tie the matching pair together as the organisation receives hundreds of donations and it reduces frustration searching for matching shoes.
- Donate with clean shoe laces and intact inner soles.
To date, more than 83,000 pairs have been collected and donated to people in over 18 countries. To learn how to donate a pair of retired sports shoes, check out their website.
Early this year, the Australian Sporting Goods Association (ASGA) – in partnership with sports retailers and athletic brands including Sportspower, Rebel, Converse, Adidas, New Balance, Globe, JD and Asics – launched its shoe recycling pilot program in Victoria.
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Through the deployment of in-store collection bins, the cohort have managed to collect over 65,000 pairs of sporting shoes in just six months. Over 20 tonnes of valuable materials including rubber, leather, plastic and other textiles that were destined for landfill will instead be recycled through their partner Save Our Soles and transformed into new items such as sporting products and high-quality gym flooring.
You can check out the list of places you can drop off your worn sneakers here.
Nike launched its Reuse-A-Shoe sneaker recycling program in 1993 and over the 26-year period has collected 32 million pairs of any-brand of sports shoes and runners worldwide. The recycled shoe materials are combined with other manufacturing scrap and transformed into Nike Grind, a material that is then used to build basketball courts, running tracks and even new pairs of sneakers!
If you have an old pair of sports shoes you’d like to recycle, just head to a Rebel Sports store and pop them into the Nike Reuse-a-Shoe bin located in-store.
Established in 2010, Australian charity Soles4Souls collects new, used and worn sneakers, sandals, boots and shoes for children, women and men in need around the world. In total, more than 100,000 pairs of shoes have been donated and distributed to people in need.
While the organisation has been on an operational break this year, shoe donation opportunities still exist in Victoria through the Rotary Club of Frankston and Mount View Primary School in Glen Waverley. Visit the website to learn more.
With Australians disposing of 500,000 tonnes of leather and textile waste each and every year, circularity has never been more important. If you have any old, unwanted, holey and single socks that aren’t suitable to donate to op-shops, Australian circular sock company Manrags will recycle them. Just buy a compostable satchel for $2 and then send your CLEAN and WASHED old socks to Manrags and they will do the rest. Wearable socks will be upcycled and sent to people need, while the others go to India to be shredded and upcycled into new textiles that will be used to produce new products such as clothing and insulation.
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Cover image of the recyclable Adidas Futurecraft.Loop.