Ways on How to Recycle or Reuse Old and Worn-Out Pairs of Shoes

Just think about this. How many pairs of shoes have you gone through in the past year? Probably 3 to 6 pairs right? Each year in America, 300 million pairs of shoes are discarded and thrown away. Most of these go to landfills. Here's the problem - because of the materials used in manufacturing shoes, it takes an average of 30 to 40 years for a pair to decompose. It's a nightmare. With that said, if you don't want to contribute to the amount of hard-to-decompose pairs of shoes accumulating in landfills, it's time to either recycle or reuse your worn-out pairs instead of just chucking them into the garbage can.

Here are some of the best and most effective ways on how to recycle or reuse your old pairs of shoes. The main goal is to ensure that your old shoes don't end up in a landfill.

1. Donate them.

If the pair is still in good or fair condition and can still be used, you should consider donating it to another person or to an organization that accepts old shoes as donations. If you live in a city, there could be a homeless shelter where people are badly in need of shoes. If there's a homeless person you always pass by on your way to work, maybe that person needs a good pair of shoes. There are charities and organizations that collect old shoes. A good example of such an organization is Soles4Souls. Just leave the shoes at one of their drop-off locations or ship the shoes to them and they'll do the rest. Not only are you helping people, you are also helping in keeping shoes from getting into landfills.

Organizations that accept shoe donations:
a. WaterStep - They collect shoes, sell them to an exporter, and use the funds for their safe drinking water projects around the world.
b. Share Your Soles - They bring used shoes to those in greatest need all across the globe.
c. Planet Aid - They accept all kinds of donations including used but in good condition shoes.

2. Turn them into bird nests.

Shoes are made of tough and sturdy materials like rubber, leather, foam and plastic. Their "hollows" can be transformed into neat and long-lasting nests for birds. Think of turning the old shoe into a birdhouse. Of course, you need to make some modifications to make it more attractive to nearby birds. If you have pet birds housed in a sizable cage, you can put the shoe in the cage as a nest. Give it the necessary padding to make it more comfortable for the birds.

3. Take it to a recycling center near you.

Every major city in the United States has a recycling center. These centers make it very easy for you to drop your unwanted items. Some even go as far as to pick up the unwanted items from your home. The recycling process in these centers are streamlined and efficient. And they have the technology to properly recycle unwanted materials and products. Many of these centers earn an income by selling recycled products. You can further support them by purchasing their recycled products.

4. Drop them at a Nike store for recycling.

Nike has a recycling program wherein they take old shoes, break them down, and reuse them. The plastic, rubber, foam and leather parts are separated and ground. The materials are then used for various purposes. Sometimes, these are used as surfacing for track tops and playgrounds. They are also used as materials for the production of new pairs of shoes. Just bring your old shoes to a participating Nike and Converse Factory. They accept old shoes not just those made and sold by Nike. They also take in old pairs from other shoe brands. However, they only accept athletic sneakers. They don't accept sandals, boots, dress shoes, and shoes with metal parts such as spikes and cleats.

5. Use them as art materials or turn them into pieces of art. 

This is an example of upcycling. Also known as creative use, upcycling is the process of turning unwanted products or unwanted materials into new products or new materials. The unwanted product is the old pair of shoes and the new product is the piece of art you transform it into. You need to be creative if you want to turn those old trainers into art. You cant paint them and use them as wall decoration. You can use them as a part in a modernistic sculpture. 

6. Drop them at participating Columbia and Asics stores.

These brands follow the same recycling and reusing program by Nike. And yes, they also accept athletic shoes from other brands. Columbia's recycling program is called ReThreads and their main goal is to help people recycle used clothing and shoes. When Columbia launched their program a few years ago, they pledged financial contributions to select non-profit organizations for every pound of clothing and shoes collected and recycled. The beneficiary non-profits included American Hiking Society, National Park Foundation and Children and Nature Network.

For their recycling program, Asics partnered with Give Back Box, a non-profit that provides a service that makes donating unwanted shoes and apparel effortless and convenient. For detailed instructions on how to donate through Asics and Give Back Box, go here.

7. Have them repaired and restored.

Before you throw them out, check if you can still have them repaired. Most shoe damages can be fixed. There are services out there that specifically repair and restore old or damaged shoes. Some of these services even have mail-in options. This means that you can ship the shoes to them, they'll fix and restore them, then ship them back to you. Here's a few of them such services - Red Wing, Sole Fresh, Cobbler Concierge, NuShoe, and My Shoe Hospital.