How to Recycle Shoes – Ideas for Your Old Shoes

Whether you’re spring cleaning, looking to buy a pair of new shoes, or simply need more shoe space in your cupboard, here are a few ideas on what you can do with your old shoes. The world is moving towards a more sustainable way of living, and recycling is a major part of this. Companies around the world are taking steps to create products that are made from recyclable materials to reduce their carbon footprint. 

If your shoes are so worn out that no one else could possibly wear them, then it’s time for them to go. But if you think they can still be worn by someone else, you could donate them. Just because they’re no longer serving you doesn’t mean they won’t be loved by someone else. But if your shoes are beyond saving, don’t just throw them in the dustbin. Luckily, you can recycle sneakers and other types of shoes.

Can you Recycle Shoes?

The short answer is yes. But this does depend on what the shoes are made of. A lot of companies are shifting to making their shoes with more recyclable materials. Recycling shoes isn’t as common as recycling clothes, but it is done. Since shoes are made of multiple different materials, the different elements need to be recycled differently. This does make shoe recycling more complex since the various parts of the shoes need to be separated before they can be recycled. Since this can be a challenge, many shoe companies like Nike, Converse and New Balance have shoe recycling programs. 

Where to Recycle Shoes in South Africa

Repeated wearing of shoes does lead to them wearing out. While there are ways to make your shoes last longer, even the most well-cared-for shoes will eventually need to be retired. If you’re looking for a place to recycle your shoes in South Africa, there are a couple of places where you can drop off your old footwear.

  • H&M –  H&M offer vouchers in exchange for a bag of clothes that can be recycled. They also accept shoes. 
  • Puma – You can bring any brand of old shoes and clothes of to Puma stores for recycling

Other Ideas for Worn Out Shoes

Recycling isn’t the only thing you can do with your old shoes. You can also give them a new life by repurposing them, donating them, or getting them fixed up. 

Donate your Shoes

If your shoes aren’t completely destroyed and could be used by someone else, you can always donate them. This way, not only do you clear out your cupboard, but someone else can benefit from your old shoes.

Places you can donate your shoes include:

  • The Sneaker Shack’s Project Run accepts old running shoes, which they then transform and donate
  • Drop shoes off at charity shops, orphanages or the SPCA
  • Donate to Soles4Souls
  • Give your shoes to Clothes to Good
  • Head to a Clothing Bank drop off point
  • Contact ERP to donate your shoes
  • Send your old shoes to the Put Foot Foundation

Upcycle your Shoes

Upcycling has become a popular way of transforming old things into something new. This method of creative reuse has led to some incredible creations as well as a lot of fun. Plus, if you get your kids involved, it’s an excellent way for them to use their imagination. Creating something new out of something old is rewarding in itself. It’s also ideal if you’re sentimentally attached to the object. Upcycling shoes can mean anything from transforming boots into sandals to turning them into a planter for succulents. 

You could turn your shoes into a jewellery rack or create a birdhouse. If you’ve got a lot of heels that you want to get rid of, you can turn them into a coat rack. 

If you need stepping stones in your garden, you can turn your sneakers upside down and use them. With a bit of creativity, your shoes can have a whole new life.

Find a Cobbler

When you find the perfect pair of shoes, it can be hard to let them go. If you really don’t want to part with them, there are also places that refurbish old shoes. Find a cobbler close to you and ask them if your shoes can be rescued. These talented artisans can take a pair of shoes on their last legs and make them look brand new again. Plus, watching cobblers transform and restore shoes back to their former glory is extremely satisfying. 

Final Thoughts on Shoe Recycling

We all have a pair of go-to shoes that we love to wear. But unfortunately, even the highest quality shoes don’t last forever. Whether your soles have worn, heels have broken, straps have come loose, or your toes are peeking out of your sneakers. But before you chuck them straight in the bin, consider recycling them. 

And once you’ve finished donating or recycling your shoes, it’s time to sit back and enjoy a nice cup of coffee or even a glass of wine.

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