Shoe Recycling in Australia
Updated: Feb 4
It is estimated that 24 billion pairs of shoes are manufactured every year around the world, however 90% of these are ending up in land fill at the end of their life cycle. Recycling and reusing shoes is an important way to reduce our waste load on the planet however, do you know how to recycle your shoes properly?
Shoe recycling, so what's this about!? Australia is pretty great at recycling and these days most councils will have you separating your hard plastics, glass, cans and food (bio) waste as well as clothing into dedicated bins so they can be recycled. Hopefully you’re all going above and beyond and even taking your soft plastics to the RedCycle bins in Coles or Woolies too!? Its very easy, we promise! Check our their initiative here.
Despite this, the convenient options for the general public to recycle shoes are very limited. Globally, around 24bn pairs of shoes are produced each year and 90% of these end up in landfill or the incinerator when thrown away. Sadly, a lot of the shoe materials in landfill can take hundreds of years to decompose as plastic, polymers and other textiles don't break down easily. They can also leach micro plastics, heavy metals and other toxic chemicals into the surrounding area and water table- not nice for us or our wildlife!
Over the past 20 years experts have concluded the best way to actually recycle shoes is a process called fragmentation - breaking down the shoe into its constituent parts and then separating the parts by material type. This is a challenge in itself with some shoes having up to 15 individual materials and 3-4 different plastics, so you can imagine how complicated this would be to sort at a recycling factory. Even worse is when metal studs or decorative elements are used because the metal cant be shredded. Unfortunately there continues to be a real lack of consideration to a shoes ‘end of life’ when companies design and manufacture new collections.
When you’re considering throwing shoes away the first option is to give them to charity, extending their life and helping someone in need. Fast fashion doesn’t help unfortunately and people who’ve been in the industry for 20-30 years have seen the quality of shoes fall so they’re simply more likely to just get thrown in the trash.
This is why at The Bondi Shoe Club we’ve designed our shoes out of as few materials as possible and only from ones that can be broken down and properly recycled. Its great to know that for instance when the rubber in our soles is recycled and shredded it can be bonded with resin to make a perfect surface for playgrounds, gyms and athletics tracks : )
So practically, what can we do?
Firstly, consider only buying from companies that have put thought into a shoes ‘end of life’. We know this can be tough though and its easy to get lured in by fast fashion. But remember, collectively, we can make a difference with our individual choices.
The Australian Sporting Goods Association and Save Our Soles have teamed up with a number of sporting brands to create an incredible shoe recycling initiative (including New Balance, Converse, Globe, rebel, adidas, ASICS, SportsPower and JD Sports) where they provide recycling bins in their shops to collect old or worn out sports shoes that cannot be resold or reworn. Their recycling facility will break the materials down and process them into new products such as sports mats and playground matting. This initiative is currently being trialed in Victoria and its expansion to other states has been delayed by Covid but we’re hoping to see it elsewhere in 2021 🙏. Check it out here.
Save our Soles have also teamed up with several large shoe companies that have retail spaces such as Converse, Hush Puppies and Bared footwear to name a few that provide shoe recycling bins in store for shoes that are not sports shoes, and cannot be resold or reworn. You can drop our shoes off at these drop off bins to be fully recycled. Sadly, most of these are in Victoria at the moment. Here at The Bondi Shoe Club we are going to be speaking to councils in the eastern suburbs and looking to pioneer a local recycling program in Sydney as we speak to solve this issue. Watch this space!
Shoes for Planet Earth is a fantastic Australian not for profit initiative started by some keen runners that work with local and international communities to collect running shoes that are still in good-reasonable condition and to send them to homeless shelters, youth and female crisis centers, indigenous communities sporting groups, orphanages, churches, flood and other disaster victim. We love this so check out where you can drop off your old runners here.
If you have shoes that are not sports shoes, and they are in good enough condition/ still sellable then any charity shop from Vinnies to the Salvation Army will be glad to try and sell them on to be reused and reloved!
If your shoes are in a non sellable condition, then if you've got a bit of a creative flare there are some really fun and innovative ways you can upcycle your old shoes. We love these:
- Old Shoe Birdhouse
- Flip flop wall plants
- Baby shoe pincushion
- High heel coat rack
- Plant pot
One of our lovely customers told us about Upparel which is an amazing company dedicated to reducing the textile waste going into landfill and instead upcycling it into quality, useful products, including shoes. Shoes and clothing that are in good condition and can be reworn are donated to charitable shops or causes, and those that are not are upcycled into new items or recycled into new materials. And what's even better is they pick your items up from your front door! Check them out here.
As you can see, there are plenty of options to reuse, recycle and repurpose your shoes next time you are having a clear out. So take that extra step to create a more sustainable future and ensure you are not increasing the landfill burden by disposing of your shoes responsibly.
Thanks for stopping by and having a read. Live life in colour!