Updated July 2021
Of the 24.2 billion pairs of shoes manufactured globally each year, experts say that most of them end up in a landfill or incinerator, because there are simply too many shoes and not enough recycling solutions.
Still, you’re right to resist the urge to toss shoes in the garbage. Once they’re kicking back in the dump, shoes can leach plasticizers, heavy metals and other toxic chemicals,m. They also take a literal eternity to break down. While natural materials decompose quickly (cotton takes about six months while leather requires 20 to 40 years), most of our shoes contain plastic-based components that last much, much longer.
“PVC and EVA are around 35% of all shoe materials, globally,” explains Hossain. “They can take as much as 1,000 years to decompose.” Of course, this is all theoretical, he adds. In modern landfills, which are lined in plastic and then sealed shut, our shoes sit intact “as long as you can imagine.”
At the end of the day, there’s no magic bullet solution to getting rid of old shoes. Like everything else to do with sustainability, it’s complicated and requires tradeoffs. And even recycling innovations can’t replace the time-tested advice to buy the best quality shoes you can afford (leather still lasts the longest and is easiest to repair) and to care for each pair as long as possible. The above text was from https://fashionista.com/2020/02/how-to-recycle-shoes-sneakers-heels
What to do With Used Shoes
Here are options that at the very least can delay shoes going to the landfill, in order of whether the shoes are useable or not:
🥾 Keep using the shoes yourself, taking to a cobbler or shoe repair if needed. If you don’t have shoe repair nearby, try an online shoe repair service, like My Shoe Hospital, NuShoe or Cobbler Concierge. Jersey-based SoleFresh has a mail-in option for sneakers. If you’ve bought a pair of high-end shoes (like Red Wing), check if the company provides in-house repairs.
You can also try your hand at some DIY shoe recovery at home. Shoe adhesives like Shoe-Fix, Barge and Shoe Goo are cheap and effective and can be used to plug holes in those paper-thin soles, reattach a flopping sole and — my favorite trick — build up a worn-down heel so you’re not walking at a slant.
🥾 New or gently worn shoe donation. Ship for free. https://soles4souls.org/give-shoes/?fbclid=IwAR3N1d_0MgVbYcUgs9V3Cc-PrxDpBNun3Oa2oja12zSVWSZrHdHZuegZo9w
Or: Give Back Box, which also ships free and you can include clothes and other items in new or great condition, that will be donated to charity.
🥾 Donate Shoes that are still wearable: https://www.salsshoes.com/?fbclid=IwAR1n4JPEUfTP6hhzIOsfJt8yAvptOuhgr0ol_-wJmg8OtZKTVmoMe-uSA2w
🥾 Obviously, if they are in good enough condition to sell, you could donate to a local re-sale organization like Goodwill. If something does not look sellable, DO NOT donate to a place like this. It’s been found that 84% of donated clothes/items that get donated end up in the landfill or burned because they are not in good condition. You can call and ask if they have a recycling program for textiles (fabrics) and/ or shoes for non-sellable items. If they don’t, they will just throw them away. An even worse scenario is in some cases, they may get shipped overseas and then burned or thrown away.Here are more ideas for places to donate: https://www.joincake.com/blog/donate-suits/?fbclid=IwAR2FdgUUaDUBthZhBWLFJa7Z3V3pNNPtkUOm-SHLr_-v9s4ynVBMQG_4K1M
🥾 If well worn/ not quite sellable but still wearable you could try a buy nothing group, list for free on fb marketplace, look for a shelter that takes such items, or Perhaps donate them to a schools drama department. Make sure that they understand what the condition of the items are and that they will actually use them.
🥾 This goes for shoes in any condition I suppose, but apparently there is definite demand for well-used shoes to sell to foot fetish people. I haven’t tried any of this, but you can try on ebay but have to be careful, say “well worn” shoes and include some pics of your feet in them. Also try FB marketplace. Or the website allthingsworn, but there is a seller account fee.
🥾 For shoes that can’t be worn anymore and you don’t want to go to the landfill (at least not yet), you can get creative and use them for things like Planters. Because of how dirty shoes are (including lead and bacteria), I do not recommend using indoors or for edible plants, but as a carefully orchestrated outdoor display it can work. https://www.pinterest.com/mygardenthings/shoe-flower-pots/
🥾 I saw a lovely idea for shoes and boots (won’t work for open toed) where the shoe is nailed from the inside to a board on a tree with a little v shaped roof, for birds to use for nest building 🙂 Shown in main picture.
🥾 You could turn them into art pieces, sculptures such as these ‘lego’ ones. Or donate to a local artist who would do it. If you allow children to participate, I’d consider wearing gloves and/ or washing hands thoroughly afterwards.
🥾 If you’re looking for true recycling (ie using old shoes to make new shoes or other items:
Nike’s Reuse a Shoe program recycles worn out sneakers by any brand. 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 (here’s a list of them). 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. Amazon Affiliate link to Nike shoes: https://amzn.to/3s50yYH
Another option is to organize a shoe drive and send what you collect to Terracycle, a New Jersey-based recycler that finds buyers for leather shoe bits that can to be turned into flooring and furniture, while plastic becomes containers and soundproofing materials, among other uses, says Ernel Simpson, VP of research and development. But you’ll have to pay for it. Collection boxes start at $109, making it a better option for offices, apartment buildings or schools.
Fortunately, footwear recycling options should expand in the near future. “We are looking at shoe to shoe to recycling. Conceptually it’s a new way of looking at things,” explains Dharan Kirupanathan, technology lead behind Adidas’s Futurecraft.Loop, an allegedly “infinitely recyclable” running shoe made of a single material that’s currently in its pilot phase. And I:CO is planning to expand its footwear recycling options to more stores and brands in 2020.
Do note however, that while recycling is great for the planet, depending on the materials recycled, they may be toxic, so keep in mind if you consider buying recycled items.
I suggest that you consider your next shoe (and clothing and other items) purchase carefully. Do you REALLY need more shoes or clothes? How much are you going to really use them? Less trash starts with less consumption/ demand for new things. For items you already have or need to buy, please consider the above options, and bravo to you for taking that step. 👟
Brands Doing Other Good Things:
Here is a brand, Rackle that claims to be somewhat biodegradable.
Arvin Goods is making recycled socks.
To check out additional posts, visit and “like” my Facebook page here:
***Thank you for visiting Clean Green Toxicant Free! I started this site simply because I want to help people and share information. I dig deep and seek the most truly non-toxic products, without bias. I am not paid to write anything and I don’t sell anything. In 2022 I became an Amazon Associate, which does NOT bias my recommendations. I may earn small dividends from purchases made after clicking my clearly labeled amazon affiliate links (even if you don’t buy those specific items), which helps cover the costs I pay to maintain this site, at no cost to you. More info is on the About This Website page.***