It is reported that every year over 300 million shoes are thrown away in the UK. Let’s repeat that; 300 MILLION SHOES ARE THROWN AWAY! That figure is unbelievable! There are around 66.65 million people living in the UK, so that equates to every single person throwing away around 5 pairs of shoes a year.
They may not sound a lot, in fact, it may sound quite reasonable for some fashionistas. But, where are those 300 million pairs of shoes (or 600 million single shoes) going? And what’s being done with them?
Well, can you guess?
Landfill. That’s where.
Not all of them, granted, but a HUGE proportion of thrown out shoes are sent to be buried in the earth. A small percentage that are deemed wearable are packed up and shipped across to third world countries where they are re-worn, and a smaller percentage are recycled for their parts – the eyelets, laces and material.
Shoes made out of leather can take 24 to 40 years to decompose, while the rubber soles can take as long as 80 years! Also, the materials used to make the shoes are often produced using chemicals such as Ethylene Vinyl Acetate, which is used to make the sole of the shoe and takes 1000 years to decompose.
So what can you do instead?
- Fix and Repair
What’s the real issue with your shoes? Is the sole coming away? Are there rips in the canvas? Maybe holes in the sole? Or, is there a few scuffs? Whatever the case, there is a fair chance that they can be mended by your local cobbler, or seamstress. It may not be as cheap to do as it would be to just pick up a new pair, but if you’re an aspiring conscious consumer this is the best option for you.
- Give to a friend
If the reason you are throwing away your shoes is a change in taste, why not give them away to a friend you know will use them? When shoes are destined for the charity shops (which isn’t a bad thing) the chances of them sitting on the shelf and rotating around the stores is incredibly high. This is because the chances of them being sold is very slim as people have a thing about not buying second hand shoes. Maybe this is because of the fear of the unknown – From what situation did they come from? Who wore them last? Did they have smelly, sweaty feet? Giving them to a friend who knows all of the above is a great option, and is an opportunity to reduce the overloading of charity shops.
- Donate to charity
With that being said, the next best thing is to donate your unwanted shoes to the charity shops. BUT, remember that the shoes HAVE to be in good condition, nobody wants your rubbish.
- Give to be recycled
If there is absolutely no chance of saving your soles, give them to a company who will recycle the shoes. Old shoes that are too worn out and cannot be donated can go to good use as well. Nike’s 2013 Reuse-a-shoe campaign allowed for people to drop off old athletic shoes which are then taken apart and sorted by material to be made into other goods. Running shoes are taken apart and divided into fiber, rubber and foam. They are then ground up and made into a playground and athletic surfacing. It’s a great way to give your shoes a new life.
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