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A while ago, I bought a new pair of recycled sneakers, which left me thinking – what to do with my old shoes?
My 5+ years old Vans weren’t suitable for donating since they had holes, and I know recycling old shoes is tricky.
Throwing them in the trash is unsustainable and polluting, which makes it an unfeasible option.
That’s why I decided to do extensive research and find out what to do with old shoes and how to get rid of them sustainably.
First, I will start with some facts and then some straightforward solutions. Let’s begin!
Environmental impact of footwear:
Once they reach the landfill, they can take 30 to 40 years to decompose, and for rubber shoes – up to 80 years.
A study found that the footwear industry is responsible for 1.4% of global GHG emissions.
To put this into perspective, air travel is responsible for 2.5% of emissions, which makes the footwear industry a significant polluter.
Manufacturing and the extraction of raw materials are the biggest drivers of pollution.
Additionally, footwear requires many different materials, making it hard to recycle.
Because of this, most shoe waste ends up in landfills or is burned – both ways contaminate the environment by emitting toxic chemicals into the soil, groundwater, and air.
That’s why finding more sustainable ways to deal with your old shoes is really important.
5 Things To Do With Old Shoes:
If you throw your shoes in the trash, they will end up in landfills. Alternatively, there are a couple of ways to deal with old shoes. The five things you can do, depending on the condition of the shoes, are:
- Donate – If the shoes are in pretty good condition, but you are simply not wearing them anymore, many fantastic organizations accept used shoes.
- Recycle – If the shoes are in bad shape, and you can’t or don’t want to fix them, you can send them to a specific recycling facility to be recycled and used to make something new.
- Sell/Swap – If the shoes are in perfect condition, but you don’t wear / like them anymore, there are many online places to sell them. You can also swap them with friends.
- Repair – If you still like the shoes but are damaged, you can find a local cobbler to fix them. Alternatively, you can also try to fix the shoes by yourself.
- Upcycle – You can upcycle your shoes for various creative DIY projects.
Let’s take a look at each option below.
Where To Donate Old Shoes:
Many places accept old shoes and distribute them to people in need.
If you want to donate your old shoes, ensure they’re in good, clean condition – with no cracks, tears, or worn-out soles.
For example, I bought a pair of sportsy Etnies shoes many years ago. They are super comfortable, but I realized they don’t fit too well with my other clothes and style.
Years passed, and I wore them probably once per year. After I decided to declutter my closet (including my footwear collection), I donated that pair:
Here are 20 places where you can donate your old shoes:
- Samaritan’s Feet – Available in the US. If the shoes are still wearable, they will give them to someone else who will wear them. Fill out the form, and have your starter kit mailed to you.
- Soles 4 Souls – Available in the US. Helping people in developing countries. You can find a drop-off location or ship the shoes for free.
- Goodwill – Available in the US & Canada. Accepting shoes, boots & footwear in clean, resellable condition.
- Green Drop – Available in the US.
- Out Of The Closet – Available in the US.
- American Red Cross – Click here to find a bin nearby.
- Zappos for Good – Available in the US.
- One World Running – Available in the US. Send clean, gently used shoes.
- Planet Aid – Available in 13 countries. You can put all your unwanted shoes in a bag, then drop them off at one of Planet Aid’s 19,000 yellow drop-off bins across the country.
- Salvation Army – Available in 133 countries.
- Diabetes Canada – You can schedule a pickup or find a drop-off bin nearby.
- Cerebral Palsy – Available in Canada. They collect quality used shoes from Calgary, Edmonton, and surrounding communities.
- Kidney Clothes – Available in Canada. Schedule a pick-up or find a drop-off bin in Alberta or Ontario.
- Calgary Drop-In Centre – Available in Canada. You can mail or drop off your donations at their Donation Center.
- Women in Need Society – Available in Canada. Accepting gently used shoes in good condition and free of stains, rips, or any other damage.
- Clothing for a Cause – Available in Canada.
- Oxfam (the UK) – Supporting people in crisis in the UK and overseas.
- Sal’s Shoes – Available in the UK.
- Shoe Aid – Available in the UK.
- British Red Cross
- Australian Redcross
- Local thrift stores, charities & donation centers
How To Recycle Old Shoes:
Old shoes can be recycled only through special programs and rarely in local recycling programs.
That’s because shoes are difficult to recycle; they are often made with many components and mixed materials – rubber, polyester, plastic, cotton, metal, etc.
This makes it challenging to take each pair apart and recycle it accordingly.
First, I wanted to share with you a super cool option where you can recycle your old sneakers for money:
- GotSneakers – Their recycling program is available in the US, allowing you to earn money for every pair of sneakers you contribute. You can sign up for free here.
Furthermore, there are more options where you can recycle your shoes:
- Terracycle – Order a Zero Waste Box for recycling shoes. Once you fill it out, send it back with the attached prepaid shipping label to be recycled. Terracycle accepts running shoes, sneakers, boots, heels, and sandals.
- Nike – Move to Zero program accepts any brand of athletic sneakers to be donated for recycling. They don’t take sandals, dress shoes, boots, or shoes with metal elements. Contact your local Nike store and ask if they accept used shoes for recycling.
- Asics – Give Back Box program accepts unwanted footwear for recycling. See if your local Asics store accepts shoes for recycling.
- The North Face – Clothes the Loop program encourages people to drop off unwanted footwear at the North Face stores. See if your local North Face store accepts shoes for recycling.
- Merrell – Available in the US. Merrell Retread program accepts hiking or regular shoes in any condition. They clean, restore, and use them to make new items.
- Columbia – Available in the US. Columbia’s Rethreads program encourages consumers to bring their used shoes in clean, dry condition to their participating retail stores to be given a new life.
- Wearable Collections – Available in the US. A for-profit waste management company that recycles old shoes. You can schedule a home pick-up for $20.
- Native Shoes – Available in Canada. You can ship your shoes (for free) and recycle them, no matter their condition.
- Adidas – Available in the UK. Infinite Play is a program that allows consumers to return Adidas footwear or apparel to their partner Stuffstr to be resold or recycled. See if your local Adidas store accepts shoes for recycling.
- Schuh – Available in the UK. Bring your worn shoes to a Schuh store – you can find 132 stores in the UK and Ireland; then, you can find bins where you can leave old shoes.
- Recycle Now – Available in the UK. Search by postcode for nearby recycling programs which accept shoes and boots.
Where To Sell Your Shoes:
You can sell new, gently used shoes you don’t wear anymore in a few places. If you want to sell more fancy brands, choose the first three options, and for more regular shoes – the rest:
- Flight Club – An easy way to sell your new, lightly worn sneakers; retail stores in New York, Los Angeles, and Miami.
- Stock X – Sell new or lightly worn shoes. Available worldwide.
- Grailed – Grail is a platform that offers high-quality, luxurious second-hand clothes and shoes. If you own something expensive, you can sell it here.
- Crossroad Stranding – When you trade at Crossroads, you can receive credit for any of their stores or cash on the spot.
- Depop (App)
How To Repair Old Shoes:
You can bring old shoes to a cobbler. Once, I ripped off the sticker on the back of Doc Marten’s shoes and made an open hole.
I bought them a few years back, but they were still in good shape, and I didn’t want to throw them out.
So I found a local cobbler who fixed them for very cheap. I still wear those shoes!
What shoes are not suitable for donation or recycling?
Almost always, you can save an old shoe from ending up in a landfill. The only shoes you can’t keep from a landfill are the ones that have irreparable damage, like mold.
How often should you replace shoes?
It all depends on the quality of the shoe, its material, and how often you wear it. If your shoes no longer provide stability or comfort and start causing pain or discomfort, it’s probably time to replace them.
What can you do to fight shoe waste pollution?
- Support eco-friendly brands. Many new brands strive to develop sustainable designs, production methods, distribution channels, and shoes made from natural, biodegradable or recycled materials.
- Repair, resell, donate, upcycle and recycle your shoes. Try to avoid sending any of your shoes to a landfill.
- Buy less & only when you genuinely need new shoes. Try to invest in high-quality pairs so they can last you years.
- Consider shopping second-hand. Choosing second-hand footwear can save a pair from potentially ending in a landfill and extending its life.
There you have it – a comprehensive guide on how to sustainably deal with old shoes you don’t need anymore.
I hope you find an option that is suitable and easy for you. Please let me know in the comment section below if I’ve missed an excellent resource for recycling, donating, or selling used shoes.