What To Do With Your Old Sneakers

We've previously spoken about (and rocked) some of our favourite sustainable sneaker brands.

While we encourage people to shop ethically, and that means knowing how your products are produced, we know it can be hard for people to look past a bouncy new pair of runners or those crisp white leather sneakers. But have you considered what happens to those fresh kicks once they're past their use-by date? More than 23 billion pairs of shoes are made annually and in the US alone, 85% of textile waste (US) goes to landfill or is incinerated!

Everyone might remember as a kid that sneakers over a powerline might have suggested something sinister in the neighbourhood. We're taking the view that these people just never considered the more environmentally friendly ways of reusing, repurposing and recycling. Next time you've got an old pair of sneakers, don't feel bad about throwing them in the landfill bin, try one of these alternatives instead!

Recycle for the planet

If your old pair of kicks are beyond salvation, you've still got options before giving them the old toss. There are many sneaker recycling schemes worldwide and Nike's Reuse-A-Shoe is probably the most notable. All worn-out shoes (not just Nikes!) can be dropped off at select stores and are repurposed into a material used to create sporting fields, but this program is predominantly based in the US. Find out where your closest drop off is here.

In Australia, The Save Our Soles Initiative has become the first national, industry-lead program to find a solution to the collection, processing and reuse of pre-loved sporting footwear. Materials from the shoes are used to manufacture new products such as gym mats, floors and playgrounds. The initiative is currently only in Victoria (you can find the drop-off spots at most major shoe retailers at this link). Nationally, there are plans to roll this scheme out very soon, so we encourage you to hold onto those sneakers just a little while longer.

Donate them to a local charity that repurposes them!

A lot of people have already gotten into this habit. If you've got a pair of shoes which are still in usable condition, send them to charity! A quick google search can let you know where the closest drop-off spots are located. While local shops, such as Vinnies and The Red Cross are the usual suspects, don't forget about other charities doing good work such as Shoes for Planet Earth (Australia), sneakers4funds (US), and ShoeShare with Unicef (UK). Keeping this in mind, consider that this only extends the life of the shoes by one life-cycle before they might potentially end up in landfill.

Hold on to them longer!

The production of sneakers is not energy efficient. While some brands are paving the way using sustainable materials, the majority of sneaker parts such as nylon, synthetic rubber and plastic are not carbon neutral. Sneakers have seen a rise in popularity over the last few years and this contributes to a system of higher production, consumption and disposal. But it also means that there are more services popping up that can make your sneakers good as new again.

With less than transparent supply chains, it's time to start buying ethically sourced and made shoes. And next time you think a pair of shoes is on its last threads, first of all, look into your repair options!! And if there's no way at all of reviving them, use them as a rainy day pair, or as a planter in your garden.

While you might not think disposing of sneakers is an issue in the fight against climate change, it's a big industry with a large environmental footprint. By consistently changing our behaviours - thinking about whether we really need that new pair, repairing our old faithful pair, or even recycling more - as always, together we can begin to make a big difference.

If you've got any other ideas or inspiration for how you've gotten rid of your old sneakers, we'd love to read them in the comments below.

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