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Give Your Shoes a Second Life: How to Recycle Them Properly

Recycle shoes to make a positive impact on our environment. Here’s a quick guide:

  • Athletic shoes and sneakers can often be repurposed for their materials.
  • Old, worn-out shoes can find a second life through certain recycling programs.
  • Shoes with metal parts can have those components extracted and separately recycled.

Recycling shoes is a significant step towards reducing landfill waste and conserving valuable resources. Each year, millions of shoes end up in landfills, taking decades to decompose. By choosing to recycle, you’re not only giving your shoes a second chance but also contributing to a more sustainable future. This effort supports eco-friendly practices and encourages the use of recycled materials in new shoe production, helping to lessen our ecological footprint.

Understanding how and where to recycle shoes can seem daunting, but it’s a simpler process than most think. Whether it’s through local recycling programs, manufacturer initiatives, or donation centers, there are various ways to ensure your old shoes avoid the landfill. Let’s dive into shoe recycling and discover how your worn-out kicks can contribute to a greener planet.

Infographic detailing steps to recycle shoes, including identifying recyclable materials, locating recycling centers, and understanding the benefits of shoe recycling - recycle shoes infographic process-5-steps-informal

Why Recycle Shoes?

In the journey to make our planet a healthier place, recycling shoes plays a pivotal role. Let’s break down why it’s so crucial to give your old shoes a second life instead of tossing them in the bin.

Landfill Waste

Did you know that over 300 million pairs of shoes are thrown away each year in the US alone? These shoes end up in landfills, where they can take hundreds of years to break down. Every pair of shoes you recycle is one less pair contributing to this growing problem.

Resource Conservation

Shoes are made from valuable materials like rubber, leather, and various plastics. When you recycle shoes, these materials can be reused, reducing the need for new resources. This not only conserves the earth’s finite materials but also saves energy in the production of new products.

Sustainable Practices

Recycling shoes encourages sustainable practices in the fashion and footwear industries. Many companies are now looking into using recycled materials to produce new shoes. This shift towards a circular economy helps reduce the environmental impact of shoe production and promotes a more sustainable future.

The Big Picture

Every shoe recycled is a step towards reducing landfill waste, conserving resources, and supporting sustainable practices. By choosing to recycle, we contribute to a cycle of sustainability that benefits not just the environment, but also the economy and future generations.

Remember that your action, no matter how small it may seem, plays a crucial role in shaping a greener planet. Let’s continue exploring how you can make a difference by learning where and how to recycle your shoes.

How to Determine If Your Shoes Can Be Recycled

Deciding whether your shoes can enter a new life cycle as recycled goods doesn’t have to be complicated. Let’s break it down into simple, actionable steps:

Material Composition

First, take a good look at what your shoes are made of. Shoes made of rubber, foam, and certain fabrics are often good candidates for recycling programs. However, not all materials are as friendly to the recycling process. For instance, shoes containing heavy metals and toxic chemicals are a no-go as they can harm the environment.

Condition Assessment

Next, assess the condition of your shoes. Are they still in decent shape despite being worn? If yes, they might be perfect for recycling or even donation. But if they’re falling apart, with soles coming off or holes that can’t be mended, recycling might be the best path forward.

Recycling Symbols

Look for recycling symbols on your shoes or their packaging. Some manufacturers make it easy by indicating whether the shoes or parts of them can be recycled. This is a quick way to identify recyclability.

Metal Parts

Don’t forget to check for metal components such as eyelets or zippers. While some recycling programs can handle these, others might require you to remove them first. These metal parts can often be recycled separately, so keep an eye out for any such requirements.

Quick Tips:

  • Natural materials like leather or canvas might have different paths, like composting, if they’re in good enough condition.
  • If in doubt, contact the manufacturer or look up their recycling policies online.
  • Local recycling centers can offer advice on how to handle shoes with mixed materials.

By following these steps, you can easily determine if your shoes are ready for a second life through recycling. Every shoe recycled is a step towards a more sustainable future. With this knowledge in hand, let’s explore where you can recycle your shoes and give them a new purpose.

Where to Recycle Your Shoes

Finding the right place to recycle your shoes can feel like a puzzle, but it doesn’t have to be. Whether your shoes are gently worn or past their prime, there’s a recycling option out there. Let’s break it down into simple choices.

Curbside Recycling Programs

Not all areas offer this, but some do. It’s a convenient way to recycle shoes right from your doorstep.

  • Check with your local recycling service to see if they accept shoes.
  • If they do, they’ll usually provide guidelines on how to prepare your shoes for recycling.

Shoe Donation Centers and Special Programs

For shoes that still have life left in them:

  • Goodwill and Soles4Souls are great options. They accept shoes and give them to people in need.
  • Look for donation bins in your area. These are often found in shopping centers or near supermarkets.

Manufacturer Recycling Initiatives

Some shoe brands take back their products to recycle:

  • Nike Grind is a program that turns old sneakers into sports surfaces. They accept all brands of athletic sneakers, but not sandals, dress shoes, or shoes with metal parts.
  • TerraCycle partners with brands to recycle complex products. Check their website to see if they have a shoe recycling program.
  • Other brands may have brand-specific programs. It’s worth checking the website of the brand of your shoe to see if they offer recycling.

Sneaker Drive Fundraisers

  • Got Sneakers and similar organizations host sneaker drive fundraisers. They collect old sneakers, offering cash for each pair, which can then be used to support community projects.
  • Participating in a community drive can be a great way to recycle shoes and support a good cause at the same time.

Tips for Recycling Shoes:

  • Clean your shoes before donating or recycling. This makes them more likely to be reused.
  • Remove any non-recyclable parts (like metal spikes from running shoes) if possible.
  • Group shoes in pairs. Tie them together or place them in a bag to ensure they stay together through the recycling process.

By choosing to recycle your shoes, you’re not just decluttering your home; you’re also contributing to a larger effort to reduce waste and support sustainable practices. Whether it’s through a curbside program, a donation center, a manufacturer initiative, or a sneaker drive fundraiser, every recycled pair of shoes makes a difference.

Now that you know where and how to recycle your shoes, you’re well-equipped to give them a second life. The goal is to keep shoes out of landfills and in circulation, whether through reuse or recycling into new products.

Creative Alternatives to Recycling

Upcycling Projects

Not all shoes need to end their journey at the recycling bin. Sometimes, a bit of creativity can breathe new life into them. Here are a couple of DIY projects to consider:

  • DIY Planters: Old shoes, especially boots, can make quirky and charming planters for your garden or balcony. Simply fill them with potting soil and add your favorite plants or herbs. This project not only repurposes your old footwear but also adds a unique touch to your green space.
  • Jewelry Racks: For those with a knack for crafts, transforming a pair of old high heels into a jewelry rack can be a fun project. By securing the shoes to a base and adding hooks or rods, you can create a stylish and functional piece to organize your jewelry.

Sustainable Shoe Brands

For your next pair of shoes, consider purchasing from brands that prioritize sustainability. These companies use organic materials, recycled components, and environmentally friendly manufacturing processes. Here are a few options:

  • Timberland PRO: Known for its commitment to the environment, Timberland PRO offers a range of footwear made from recycled materials and sustainable practices. Their products are not only durable but also designed with the planet in mind.
  • Eco-Friendly Alternatives: Many brands now focus on minimizing their environmental impact by using organic materials such as hemp, cork, and recycled rubber. Brands like Allbirds, for example, use sustainable wool and other eco-friendly materials to craft comfortable and stylish shoes.

By choosing to upcycle your old shoes or support sustainable shoe brands, you’re not just making a fashion statement. You’re also contributing to a healthier planet. Whether it’s turning your worn-out sneakers into a home for plants or opting for a pair of shoes made with organic materials, every small effort counts towards a more sustainable future.

The next time you’re about to throw away an old pair of shoes, consider these creative alternatives. Not only will you reduce waste, but you’ll also add a personal touch to your home or wardrobe, all while supporting sustainable practices.

Frequently Asked Questions about Recycling Shoes

What to Do With Shoes That Cannot Be Donated?

If your shoes are too worn out to donate, don’t throw them away just yet. You have a few options:
Recycle through specific programs: Organizations like Nike Grind and TerraCycle accept shoes in any condition for recycling. Check their websites for details on how to send your shoes.
Local recycling centers: Some centers may take shoes directly or guide you to the right place. It’s worth giving them a call.
Creative upcycling: Turn them into something new for your home. There are lots of DIY projects online that can inspire you.

How Do You Recycle Old Pairs of Shoes?

Recycling old shoes is simpler than you might think. Here’s how to do it:
1. Assess the condition: If they’re gently used, consider donating them. If they’re beyond wearable, recycling is the way to go.
2. Find a program: Look for local shoe recycling programs or larger initiatives like Nike Grind or TerraCycle.
3. Prepare your shoes: Clean them as best as you can and remove any non-recyclable parts if required by the recycling program.
4. Drop them off or send them in: Depending on the program, you may need to drop your shoes at a specific location or mail them.

Can Footwear Be Recycled?

Absolutely! Almost all footwear can be recycled in some way. The materials from your old shoes can be turned into playgrounds, athletic surfaces, or even new shoes. Programs like Nike Grind are a testament to the innovative ways shoes can live a second life. The key is finding the right place to take or send your shoes for recycling.

Every pair of shoes you recycle is one less pair in the landfill. By taking a few extra steps to recycle your shoes, you’re contributing to a more sustainable world. Keep exploring options and spread the word. Together, we can make a difference.

Next, let’s dive into the details of specific recycling programs and how you can participate.


Recycling shoes is not just about keeping them out of landfills; it’s about transforming them into something new and useful. At Rubcorp, we take this mission to heart through our collaboration with PLAYTOP/NIKE GRIND. This initiative showcases our commitment to sustainability and support on a global scale.

Rubcorp and PLAYTOP/NIKE GRIND work together to create top-of-the-line rubber surfacing solutions that are not only durable and high-performing but also environmentally friendly. By repurposing recycled athletic shoes, we’re able to offer products that contribute to a greener future without sacrificing quality or performance.

Our work with Nike Grind material is a testament to what can be achieved when we rethink how resources are used. These innovative materials are made from recycled athletic shoes and manufacturing scraps, turning potential waste into valuable resources for new projects. From playgrounds to athletic fields, the applications are as diverse as they are impactful.

We invite you to join us in this journey towards sustainability. By choosing products made with Nike Grind material, you’re not just opting for superior quality; you’re also making a statement about the importance of environmental responsibility. Every choice we make can contribute to a more sustainable world, and together, we can achieve remarkable things.

Explore our range of sustainable solutions and learn how you can be part of this exciting initiative. Visit Rubcorp’s sustainable style with Nike Grind rubber flooring to discover more about how we’re turning recycled shoes into products.

Together, let’s give shoes a second life and support global sustainability efforts. It’s time to step up and make a difference, one pair of recycled shoes at a time.

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Creative Director, Rubcorp Distribution, LLC

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