How to properly recycle old converse shoes and sneakers in an eco-friendly way, sustainable way, promoting a circular economy.
I love converse shoes. They go with everything; dresses, jeans, skirts, shorts, you name it.
I’ve racked up quite a few pairs of converse shoes during my time, an in the past I’d always thrown them away (not knowing what else to do with them). But, this time I thought there must surely be a way to recycle them.
I didn’t want to wastefully throw away yet another pair of old shoes. It just seemed so wasteful. Plus, if I didn’t go about changing small, seemingly “insignificant” habits, nothing would change. The world would keep spinning, and it would just be one more piece of rubbish ending up in landfill.
I’m a firm believer that, when we choose to act differently, we create the space for change. I went researching into how to properly dispose of old converse shoes without throwing them in the trash, and discovered there’s actually a market for old shoes. Big companies like Nike have programs where they recycle old shoes made by any brand.
According to The Bondi Shoe Club, ‘it is estimated that 24 billion pairs of shoes are manufactured every year around the world, however 90% of these are ending up in landfill at the end of their life cycle.’
Recycling and reusing shoes is an essential step to reducing our waste load on the planet, however, how exactly do we recycle our shoes properly?
Before we get started in learning how to recycle old converse shoes – if you like what you’re seeing, subscribe to my email newsletter at the bottom of the page to keep up to date on the latest recipes, DIYs, gardening and health tips I share!!
How to Recycle Old Converse Shoes and Sneakers
Recycling shoes can be a little difficult, as some shoes have up to 15 individual materials and 3-4 different plastics, making it very complicated to sort through at a recycling facility.
However, there are a few options when it comes to what to do with old shoes:
- Before throwing away old shoes away, first consider donating them to charity. This gives them a second life and can help someone in need.
- Consider only buying from companies that have created an ‘end of life’ program for the shoe. Companies like The Bondi Shoe Club have designed their shoes out of as few materials as possible, selecting only fibres that can be broken down and recycled.
- Upcycle your converse into trendy, new items. This extends the life of the shoe and can turn them into something new and useful. Pinterest has some great ideas for upcycling old converse shoes, and BuzzFeed shares 30 DIY ways to jazz up converse sneakers. You can even turn your shoes into plant pots.
- Send shoes to Save Our Soles. The Australian Sporting Goods Association and Save Our Soles have teamed up with a number of sporting brands to create a recycling initiative for shoes. These include brands like New Balance, Converse, Globe, Rebel, Adidas, ASICS, SportsPower and JD Sports. They provide recycling bins in their shops to collect old, worn-out sports shoes that cannot be donated, resold or re-worn. This program is currently being trialled in Victoria, Australia, which they hope to expand to other states soon.
- Drop off old shoes at participating Nike and Converse Factory stores (find here). Nike have implemented a program called Reuse-A-Shoe, where they recycle worn out sneakers by any brand.
- Give them to TerraCycle. They have zero waste boxes which allow you to recycle almost every type of waste. The fabrics and materials collected are reused, upcycled or recycled appropriately.
Where to Buy Eco-friendly Converse Shoes and Sneakers
There are so many incredible alternatives to unsustainable converse shoes:
- Etiko makes shoes that are made from fair-trade organic cotton, hemp, or rubber. They have a Take Back Program which allows them to recycle worn out sneakers and thongs at the end of their life.
- Veja are made from mostly leather or canvas.
- Vivo Barefoot shoes are made from free range leather or eco canvas.
- Po-Zu make their shoes from natural rubber, pinatex, cork or linen.
- Purchase shoes secondhand off sites like Facebook Marketplace or Depop, or visit thrift stores and take a browse at the shoe collections there.
- Saola are made from recycled materials (plastics) or natural cork.
- Collective Canvas are made from organic cotton and natural latex rubber.
- Allbirds make their shoes from merino, sugarcane and TENCEL.
- Cariuma create their shoes using materials like bamboo, rubber, organic cotton, sugarcane, mamona oil, cork, recycled PET, leather, suede, and recycled and recyclable paper.
As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products. I am not a doctor. All opinions expressed are my own personal thoughts and feelings of the products mentioned. Check with your doctor or health practitioner if you are uncertain about trying out any of the products, recipes or tips mentioned in this post.
Have you recycled or upcycled old shoes before? Share in the comments below.
Lots of love,
Shoes and Footwear Zero Waste Box. TerraCycle. Retrieved from https://www.terracycle.com/en-AU/zero_waste_boxes/shoes-and-footwear-en-au
Shoe Recycling in Australia. (Updated: February 5, 2021). The Bondi Shoe Club. Retrieved from https://www.thebondishoeclub.com/post/shoe-recycling-in-australia
Cline, Elizabeth L. (Updated: February 13, 2020). Ask a Sustainability Expert: How Do I Recycle My Worn-Out Shoes?. Fashionista. Retrieved from https://fashionista.com/2020/02/how-to-recycle-shoes-sneakers-heels
Hall, Kate. (April 1). Your Guide to Sustainable Shoes. Ethically Kate. Retrieved from https://www.ethicallykate.com/blog/2021/3/21/sustainable-shoes-new-zealand
Bratcher, Rory. Converse Sneaker Recycling. SFGate. Retrieved from https://homeguides.sfgate.com/converse-sneaker-recycling-79257.html