How to properly recycle old sandals and Birkenstocks in an eco-friendly way, sustainable way, to promote a more circular economy.
No item gets more worn down than a well-loved shoe. The same goes for poor-quality shoes, but they often don’t accrue the same mileage as the good-quality ones, and seem to be more of a regular occurrence these days, as things just aren’t made to last.
Instead of throwing away your old, worn-out sandals or favourite pair of Birks, consider recycling or repairing them. According to the Clean Up Australia website, typically only one percent of all shoes are collected and recycled after use. The shoes that are sent to landfill can take up to one thousand years to decompose due to the different shoe components.
But, it doesn’t have to be this way. We as consumers can do our part to reduce the amount of textiles, clothing, garments and shoes sent to landfill, and properly dispose of worn out, beyond-repair shoes.
Thankfully, in recent years, the world of shoe recycling has expanded, and there are several places you can now send your shoes to be recycled in Australia. For converse and sneaker shoe recycling, see here.
Here’s what you can do with old sandals, slides, and Birkenstocks once they’ve reached the end of their lifecycle.
Before we get started in learning how to recycle old sandals and Birkenstocks – 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 Sandals and Birkenstocks
Below are a few of the ways you can recycle old sandals and Birks to prevent them being sent to landfill.
Upparel have created a recycling program where old textiles and shoes can be sent in to be recycled, reused or repurposed by the company. ‘Everything is reused, repurposed, or recycled right here in Australia and New Zealand. We ensure nothing is sent to landfill! Currently, approximately 60 percent of the items we receive are in new or fit-to-wear condition. These items are hand-sorted by our dedicated team and passed on to our trusted charity partners, like Save The Children, We Are Mobilise, Djirra, and many more!’
They go on to explain that ‘the remaining 40 percent is either repurposed by local designers and makers, or transformed into our revolutionary material, UPtex! Which is not only entirely recycled, but also completely recyclable at its end of life.’ This UPtex material can be used for things like packaging, signage, homewares, and more.
The items they accept for recycling include:
- Clothing items (jeans, shirts, coats, etc)
- Fabric off-cuts and sewing scraps
- Wireless Bras (including bras with their wire removed)
- Linen (bedding, blankets, towels, tea towels, etc)
- Fabric mattress protectors (not waterproof/plastic)
- Fabric couch covers and curtains
- Bathers & Swimwear
Non-acceptable items include the following:
- Unwashed items
- Underwear (used e.g. panties, briefs, unmentionables)
- Cloth Nappies
- Polyurethane (PU) Leather
- Polypropylene (PP) Bags
- Bags (handbags, duffel bags, etc)
- Soft Toys
- Wired Bras
The full list of items that are and are not accepted can also be found on their website, along with other FAQs.
They accept items in any condition, whether that be brand new or heavily worn with rips, stains, and holes. The only requirement is that they’re clean — so please place everything in the wash before packaging them for collection.
When it comes to shoes, they will try and reuse or repair shoes as much as possible. But, if the shoes are beyond repair, then their materials can be of use in many ways. For example, ‘the rubber can be shredded and developed into new products or rubberised athletic tracks and playground surfaces,’ or ‘the soles can be used to create soles for fresh shoes.’
The great thing about Apparel is they offer recycling collections Australia-wide. Customers will be given a link via the collection confirmation email to schedule their collection for a date that suits them best.
To recycle, simply select the size of the box you’ll be using to pack your unwanted clothing, linen, shoes, and other textiles into, and select how many boxes you’re looking to have collected. Recycling costs start from $35.00 AUD, which will allow you to send and recycle 10kg of textiles in one box. Their recycling rates are based on weight, so they’ll also need to know the number of packages you’ll be sending in, as each requires its own courier label for collection.
Please note that they do not send you a box. You’ll need to reuse any box you have available.
The Australian Sporting Goods Association (ASGA) and the charity Save Our Soles have teamed up together to create this joint initiative, TreadLightly, as a way to increase the level of shoe recycling in Australia.
The shoes they accept for recycling include:
- Athletic lifestyle shoes
- Any sports branded shoes
- Thongs and slides
- Football boots
- Leather sports shoes
- Hiking boots
- Golf shoes
- Formal leather school shoes
- Work boots (though this is only in the state of Victoria and at selected retailers at this time)
The shoes they will not accept include:
- Business footwear
- Steel cap boots
- Leather dress boots and ballet flats
The full list of items that are and are not accepted can also be found on their website, along with collection locations. This will give you a list of participating stores in your area. Please call the store before you go to double check as the list may not be up to date.
When dropping off your shoes for recycling, keep an eye out for these collection boxes in participating stores, which have been set up to collect old shoes for recycling.
TreadLightly has partnered with several large retail companies to set up collection boxes around Australia, some of which include the following brands:
- Climbing Anchors
- Drummond Golf
- Foot Motion
- Foot Joy (FJ)
- Frankie 4
- Glue Store
- Hush Puppies
- JD Sports
- Mac Pac
- New Balance
- R. M. Williams
- Shoes & Sox
- Shoe Warehouse
- The Athlete’s Foot
See their website for an updated list of their retail partners.
Once the shoes have been collected, they are sent to Save Our Soles, who turn these old shoes into recycled crumb that is used as change room flooring, anti-fatigue mats, shock pads, playgrounds, gym mats, and sporting surface underlay.
TerraCycle 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.
When selecting the Shoe and Footwear Zero Waste Box, you can send in items such as sandals, wedges, peep-toe, sneakers, flats, loafers, oxfords, clogs, boots, heels, wedges, and five-toe shoes.
They will not accept in-line skates or ski boots, or any clothing items related to feet, like shoelaces and socks.
When you’re ready to send off your collection of shoes, you simply select the Zero Waste Box system you’ll be using, and place your order. From there, you can collect the accepted items you’ll be using to fill the box, and once ready, you can send it back to TerraCycle with the prepaid return label on your box system.
See their website for the full guide on how to recycle items with TerraCycle.
Source Your Shoes from Retailers with an ‘End of Life’ Program for their Product
The next time you need new sandals or slides, 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.
Almost all Birkenstock styles can be repaired by skilled technicians at their in-house workshop. On average, 3,713 pairs of Birks have been kept out of landfill each year through their repair a shoe program.
If your favourite pair of Birkenstocks are in need of a little TLC, you can send in a repair request via the form on their website, then send them in to be repaired. From there, the workshop will be in touch to confirm any necessary repairs and provide you with the final cost. Once finished, they will send back the shoes as good as new.
Unfortunately Birkenstocks do not recycle their old footwear for you, so you’ll need to bring it in to one of the collection boxes at any of the following retail stores listed above who have partnered with TreadLightly.
Bared is a B corp certified footwear label who have also partnered directly with Save Our Soles back in 2019 to collect shoes for recycling. The shoes are recycled into rubber mats which are then leased, and once they’re used, they can be recycled and repurposed again.
Refer to the information on the TreadLightly website for what can and cannot be accepted for recycling.
3. Totally Workwear.
Totally Workwear is a work shoe brand that typically sells work boots, as well as other tradie clothing and footwear for hospitality, corporate, healthcare, commercial, and more. Since their partnership with Save Our Soles started back in 2012, customers have been able to bring back their worn-out boots for recycling (which can be as often as every six months for those in a trade).
See their store collection location finder on their website to find your local drop off point. Please call the closest store near you before going in to double check that they will indeed accept your shoes.
Bata have create a PVC recycling program for their gumboots to ensure no PVC gumboot that they make ends up in landfill. They’re working to close the loop so that all worn-out products are sent back to them and are reused to make new gumboots.
They recycle the boots by separating any non-PCV components from the boots and then granulating the PVC component, mixing it with virgin materials to turn it into new Bata gumboots.
On their website they list three options for recycling your old gumboots:
- You can donate your old Bata branded gumboots through Upparel to receive a discount voucher once the items have been picked up. Please note that while Bata isn’t listed as a partner on the Upparel website, they are still working together to recycle these shoe items.
- Send your old Bata branded gumboots directly to their store at at 1158 Nepean highway, Mornington. You will also receive 10 percent off any in store purchase.
- Mail the boots to them at:
Attn: Recycle program
1158 Nepean highway,
This will be at your own expense.
Havaianas and TerraCycle have partnered together to recycle old rubber thongs (or flip flops) once they’ve reach the end of their lifecycle. This program is only for Havaianas made solely from rubber and excludes any styles that contain vegan straps, fabric materials, or fabric straps.
Once collected, TerraCycle will sort through and organise the shoes for recycling.
To recycle, simply gather your old flip flops that you wish to be recycled, and enter your email address here to receive a postage label. Once you receive a confirmation email with the label attached, print out the label and place it on the box containing your worn-out sandals and flip flops. Then it’s ready to be mailed back to TerraCycle for recycling.
They also have physical drop-off points in most states of Australia (except South Australia and Tasmania). You can locate your nearest collection point here. Please call the closest store near you before going in to double check that they will accept your shoes.
Etiko has partnered with Save Our Soles to create a Take Back Program for worn out products they sell. On their website they mention how the returned footwear will be initially made into indoor matting whilst they continue to figure out the best way to incorporate the materials back into future new Etiko sneakers for the brand.
You can drop off your worn out Etiko footwear or apparel (excluding underwear) at their Brunswick store (the address is 536 Sydney Road Brunswick VIC 3056), or mail your items to them, along with a note containing your name and email address (as every pair of Etiko sneakers sent in will be rewarded with a $10 gift voucher, while every pair of Etiko thongs or piece of apparel will be given a $5 gift voucher).
If you choose to mail your Etiko gear, send it to their store at:
PO BOX 5536
Studfield, VIC 3152
Items can also be physically dropped off at this location, too.
Once collected, Save Our Souls will sort through and separate the different components for recycling.
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 old sandals, slides, flip flops or Birkenstocks before? How did it go? Share in the comments below.
Lots of love,