The throwing of a shoe can be a powerful statement, depending on where you aim it. For most of us, though, show-throwing usually goes more like this: open trash can, insert shoe.
Still, our shoe-throwing matters. Hundreds of millions of shoes get bought, used, and presumably thrown away every year in the United States alone. So, along, with our newspapers, bottles and cans, it’s time to put some more thought into recycling our shoes.
Let’s read on to see 5 different ways to recycle shoes:
1. Reuse Your Shoes.
Are you one of those people who rarely, if ever, throws away a usable pair of shoes? You make sure they get reused: you put them in your yard sale or give them to the local clothing drive, or you hand them over to family and friends, sell them on ebay or whatever. You can get more ideas on passing along shoes from Recycled Runners, which is starting an online directory of shoe donation opportunities. Soles4Soles is just one of many organizations that collect used shoes in bulk for charity and will help you organize a local shoe drive.
So let’s move on to something a little more challenging: what to do with worn-out shoes?
2. Paint Your Shoes.
If the uppers are worn but not the soles, the shoes still have some life left in them. They just need some freshening up. The fancy word for this is up-cycling. You can have great fun embellishing them with paint and other substances. Fabric paint or spray paint works best, but you can experiment with practically any kind of paint. Permanent markers can work on light-colored shoes. Just make sure they’re thoroughly clean and dry.
If you have some craft glue and sewing scraps around the house, replace the laces with colorful yarn, then glue on scraps of fabric, lace, and buttons.
3. Re-purpose Your Shoes.
Yes, the strap broke on your Manolos. No, you don’t have the money to repair them. Fine. Nobody ever promised they’d be shoes forever. You can use them to hold keys and spare change, fill them with dirt and plant something in them, fill them with cement and make door-stoppers out of them, store old necklaces in them, re-lace them with sparkly ribbon and put potpourri in them…the list is endless.
And…don’t forget to re-purpose your old doll shoes into cute earrings.
4. Recycle – Really Recycle – Your Shoes.
If you only buy sneakers or crocs, then you can recycle all of your shoes — really recycle them. The Nike Reuse-a-Shoe program will take your sneakers, grind them up, and turn them into surfaces for playgrounds and athletic fields.
For crocs, check out Soles United. This organization grinds them up and turns them into new shoes. Like Reuse-a-Shoe, they have a handy zip code location finder on their web site for dropoff sites, and they provide support for organizing local shoe drives.
If your town is recycling worn-out plastic toys, it also pays to ask if you can throw wornout crocs and other all-plastic shoes in there, too. Ask first!
And…a Kenyan company called UniqEco will take your old flip-flops and recycle them into beautiful (and unique!) bracelets, earrings, and many other colorful products – even a Noah’s Ark.
5. Pre-Cycle Your Shoes.
Pre-cycle means you think about what’s going to happen when you throw away your old worn-out shoe, before you even buy it. The next time you go shoe shopping, buy sneakers or crocs — or buy shoes made from recycled or natural, safely biodegradable materials. They can be pricey, but word is that even Payless is introducing a line of eco-friendlier shoes this spring — we’ll be checking on that!.
Image: deb roby at flickr.com under creative commons.