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5 Ways to Recycle Your Shoes

Naman Bajaj
November 24, 2023
nike-running-shoes-vintage

At some point, you may have found yourself Googling, "How to recycle shoes." Unfortunately, disposing of shoes is not as simple as it seems.

While you can choose to throw them away in landfills, this action harms the environment. Shoes can take 30-40 years to decompose because they are made from different types of plastic and fabric that are not easily biodegradable. As they slowly degrade in landfills, they release toxic chemicals into the air and soil.

But there are ways to recycle or refurbish your old footwear. This extends the life of your shoes, keeps them out of landfills, and reduces the need to manufacture new footwear, which is a carbon-intensive process.

If you're wondering how to recycle shoes, here are some ways you can give new life to your old, unwanted shoes:

1. Earn money by trading in your old sneakers

Join GotSneakers' program to recycle your old sneakers. They will either redistribute them if they are still wearable or recycle them for materials and energy. Request a free shoe recycling kit from their website, fill it with your old sneakers, and ship it using a prepaid label. In return, you'll receive electronic cash.

2. Donate your gently used shoes

Soles4Souls operates a program that allows individuals to donate their gently used shoes at their locations. Instead of discarding these shoes, Soles4Souls sells them in developing countries, providing them with a new lease on life. Additionally, they assist entrepreneurs in these countries in establishing stores to sell second-hand shoes. You can also take the initiative to organize a shoe drive with Soles4Souls, inviting your friends, neighbors, family, and coworkers to contribute their gently worn shoes.

3. Drop off your old footwear in dedicated bins

A more convenient option for those who do not want to go through the process of putting their old shoes in a bag and shipping them to the above organizations is to drop them off in recycling bins dedicated to shoes. American Textile Recycling Service accepts worn-out shoes, and Green City Recycler is another option that you can explore.

4. Order a Terracycle shoe and footwear box

Terracycle, a privately owned company, operates an extensive recycling program and offers a shoe recycling program to help recycle old and used footwear. To participate, you need to order their zero-waste shoe box, which starts at $142. If you are unable to fill the entire box, you can ask your friends, neighbors, or coworkers to contribute.

5. Send them back to the brand

Brands like Nike and Timberland (through their Timberloop program) have implemented sustainable practices through their shoe recycling programs. Some Nike stores gladly accept shoes from any brand, further expanding the accessibility and reach of shoe recycling programs.

6. List them on your Buy Nothing group

If you haven’t heard of it, Buy Nothing is a platform where people can give away anything for free, including footwear. You can search for your local Buy Nothing group on Facebook or directly access their app. Your old footwear might find a new home in the neighborhood.

If you don't want to part ways with your favorite footwear, you can always transform them into something new through upcycling. There's a whole Pinterest board devoted to upcycling shoes.

Oh by the way, if you’re also wondering what to do with your old socks, check out this company recycles socks.

Naman Bajaj
November 24, 2023

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