Here are the best options for recycling shoes or donating shoes to keep them out of landfill.
You'll find plenty of options for recycling, donating and reusing ALL types of shoes including sneakers, high heels, work boots, and even single shoes, saving them from the trash.
Unwanted shoes, worn out sneakers, work boots, pumps that have seen better days, plus shoes that maybe never fitted quite right or were only worn once for a special event.
We are probably all guilty of hanging on to more shoes than we want or need and the statistics on shoes heading to landfill are astounding and they can take 30-40 years to breakdown.
According to this article, Americans throw away 300 million pairs of shoes a year and Australians are probably not far behind.
We tend to hear a lot about fast fashion and it's impacts on the environment but not so much about our shoe obsessions.
With the emergence of online shoe stores and great bargains over the past several years, this has only increased the amount of shoes sold each year.....and sadly, most people are collecting them or throwing them out.
I hunted around quite a bit to try and find useful resources to deal with all our outgrown kids shoes, completely wrecked and unwearable shoes along with poor fitting or no longer loved shoes.
We aren't exactly big shoe collectors and are pretty minimal in this area, but there is a time when repairing or donating old shoes is simply not an option.
>>>Want some tips on repairing and restyling your old shoes? Head here<
Doing my research I was frustrated with how many shoe ''recycling'' programs did NOT actually recycle shoes. Don't get me wrong, I totally love the idea of donating them to people who really need shoes, but to me, this is not quite in the realm of recycling, and we have shoes that are in such a state that they almost aren't shoes anymore.
Below are sections of the many ways shoes can be donated, swapped, sold and a section on truly recycling shoes, which seems to be the hardest thing to do.
This will help you mindfully dispose of all types of shoes, giving you more space in your closet , your bin, and minimising your planetary impact.
A Quick Note on Repairing Shoes
In the spirit of zero waste, if you can repair your shoes first, this is a great step in preventing landfill AND cutting back on consumerism.
From experience, some shoe repairs are more successful than others and it can range from being a super cheap option, to costing more than the shoes are worth. And of course, some shoes are beyond repair.
Buying good quality shoes in the first place not only means they are likely to last longer, but they are likely to be easier to repair.
Donating Old and New Shoes
Maybe your kids have out grown their shoes, or those sneakers you bought online didn't really fit, or you've decided stilettos aren't your thing any more.
Don't throw them out!
Even out of fashion shoes can be donated to opshops or charities where they can find a new home and be worn rather than dumped in landfill.
Donating shoes is often referred to as 'recycling' , I personally disagree with this definition, but if you google how to recycle shoes, you will mostly find ways to donate them. I've donated many shoes to op-shops or thrift stores over the years and until recently I really had no idea how many other ways they could be donated.
Here's a few below to get you started:
>Shoes for Planet Earth
This organisation doesn't recycle, but they are focused on REUSE which is fabulous.
They only accept new or lightly worn sports shoes, so keep that in mind and don't drop off those that are falling apart. They accept kids and adult sneakers which are then distributed within Australia and overseas to communities that need them. Head to their page to find a drop off point near you.
From what I can tell, this is no longer operating, however I wanted to mention it as I have seen it mentioned a number of times in my hunt for ways to recycle shoes so I spent a little time looking into it and hope they start it up again in the future. Shoes were collected and sorted and then given to vendors along with training in developing countries to sell and create local incomes.
This helps to create local businesses, provide affordable shoes AND reduce Australia's landfill. This is an option for shoes that don't meet the standards of other organisations. We have some old shoes that aren't great, BUT certainly still functional and a lot better than no shoes. You can read about the program here.
>One World Running
This group is based in the USA and collect shoes for donation via clubs and shoe drives. Near new shoes are sent to those in need overseas and the ones that are too worn out are sent to Nike for recycling (see the Recycling Shoes section below for more info on this program).
To find a drop off point, head here.
>Soles for Souls
This organisation that has drop off points in 127 countries, unfortunately the Australian division is currently taking a break from accepting donations. They distribute shoes to those who need them and provide opportunities for people to create micro-enterprises selling shoes in their country and helping families to afford things we take for granted like shelter, and education. You can give shoes or donate funds.
They accept single shoes too, so if your dog has chewed one shoe from a pair, you can donate the good one and anyone can get involved by starting your own shoe drive. Head here for more info.
This charity is specifically for kids shoes that have been outgrown. Sal's shoes was started by a mum who wanted to do something positive with her son's shoes and wanted to know exactly how and where the shoes would be distributed.
Any parent will know how quickly kids can outgrow their shoes, but many of us can't imagine not being able to provide shoes for our kids.
The organisation collects and distribute shoes internationally as well as locally in the UK helping kids get to school. You can find out more on their website.
If your located in the UK, you can drop off kids shoes at Clark's Shoes, who have partnered with UNICEF.
Money is raised from shoe donations and this contributes to purchasing school supplies and educational material such as "School in a box" for children in underdeveloped countries. Find a participating location here.
>Shoes For Sherpas
This is a tiny project, but worth a mention especially if you have hiking shoes or sports shoes you need to rehome. Run by the Colarado Nepal Alliance, they collect "used but still usable" footwear to Nepali porters and villagers where many live below the poverty line and make a living walking and guiding tourists around the Everest region.
Their website looks a little outdated, but this group is still actively collecting and distributing shoes.
It is also worth keeping an eye out for shoe drives and collection events in your local area. Many shoe recycling or repurposing activities occur once a year and it's worth saving up any shoes you have in a storage box for when they comes up.
Try searching on Facebook for local events.
>Thrift Shops & Op Shops
This is often a simple way to donate shoes for repurposing and helps charities raise money for various programs.
This is usually my preferred method as shoes can be dropped of locally on my way to or from somewhere and takes very little time to achieve.
Selling and Swapping Shoes you No Longer Want
You can try selling your shoes online or at a garage sale, but this option takes time and effort.... and unless they are a sought after brand, you may just find you are permanently stuck with them.
I hate having garage sales, and the last one we had several years ago, a lady with incredibly dirty feet came and tried on all the shoes I was selling. I then had to clean them all thoroughly before donating.
Bored of your shoes and want to swap?
Shoe Bank offers a great solution where members upload photos and details of their shoes for a swap. Once you find a pair (or your pair is found), the person receiving the shoes just pays for shipping.
This is such a fabulous idea for high heels or pumps in particular, that may only be worn once or a few times for a special event. If you're partial to shoes this will enable you to regularly mix up your collection of shoes without continually purchasing new items. Head here to learn more.
Selling and Buying odd shoes may sound a little strange BUT if you've lost a shoe it's a great way to make a single shoe useful again.
This is also really helpful for people with differently sized feet - they need to buy two pairs just to have a fitting pair.
Another important reason shoe swaps work is an issue you may never have even thought about - amputees who only really want one shoe have to buy a pair when they visit a shoe store.
Shoe Swap allows you to buy and sell odd shoes online, no matter what your reason is. There are fantastic shoe swap communities like this all over the world so head to their website or join a Facebook community here .
>Host a Shoe Swap Party
Many people do clothing swaps these days, so why not include shoes! Get a group of friends together and see if you can swap some of your unwanted shoes. It depends on your shoe size of course, but the more people you invite, the more chance of finding a match.
Not sure where to start? Head to Planet Ark's guide on hosting swap parties.
How to Recycle Shoes
Shoes get old and worn-out over time and given the materials they're made of, cannot be placed in your recycle bin. Recently, a few pairs of my daughters shoes have hit that point and I refuse to throw them in the bin.
Here are the best options for recycling shoes.
This program does actually RECYCLE shoes. You can drop off up to 10 pairs of shoes at a time in-store (or even mail them to Nike).
Shoes are processed to make a product called Nike Grind - this is used to surface running tracks and playgrounds. Make sure to only send worn out shoes as there are so many uses for shoes that are still good! And yes, they accept other brands of shoes too.
They have collection points around the world and recycle 1.5 million pairs of shoes a year! Head here to find out more.
>Recycle Old Work Boots
Safety boots worn by tradies and other workers can need replacing once or twice a year, depending on the industry. In the past, I've simply demoted mine as gardening boots, but for those people working hard enough to wear them out, find your nearest Totally Workwear store where you can drop them off in locations around Australia.
They are processed in Melbourne where components are separated for, including the steel and reused for New products.
>Advanced Resources Recycling
This organisation recycles shoes, keeping them out of landfill. Businesses can partner with them and they accept all types of shoes, recovering 90% of materials which can be used for new products. Head to their page to learn more.
With so many options, it might be hard to chose which one you'll go with to recycle your shoes or donate them for a second life.
Reducing what we buy and taking steps to mindfully dispose of items we can all make a big impact on the amount of items headed to landfill.
Don't forget, you might be able to repair or refashion those shoes you prefer to keep around!
Head here for some brilliant ways to repair common problems and how to restyle worn out shoes.
Did you know Biome are now starting to offer slow fashion shoes? You can check them out here.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on which options are best for you, or which ones you have tried. How many shoes are you going to divert from landfill?