Shoe lovers are a legion, it's true. Consequently, we can amass a obscene number of pairs of shoes, regardless of the type or manufacturer. There is a pair of shoes for every occasion, whether you prefer heels, boots, flats, sneakers, or slip-ons.

Nonetheless, there comes a time in everyone's life when they have that "aha!" moment and realize they have too many shoes and that some of them are on their last leg. ) When the soles of our 2012 running shoes start to peel off, we know it's time to get a new pair. We are absolutely correct, but Is there a greener way to eliminate them?

Direct access to:
Where should I put shoes that I no longer need?
When shoes are discarded, what kind of effects does that have on the planet?
Where can I take my old shoes to be recycled?
Can shoes be discarded with other recyclables?
Should you give away your old footwear?
Guidelines for Reusing Outdated Footwear: Sneakers, Boots, Heels, and More
Repurposing Your Old Shoes
If your shoes have seen better days, when should you retire them?
In what manner should worn-out footwear be discarded?
When did the frequency of replacing work boots and shoes change to every few years?
Think outside the box when it comes to getting rid of your old footwear.

Herein lies a fresh ecological conundrum: while some articles of clothing can be recycled into useful items like dishtowels, shoes aren't so lucky. In other words, once we stop wearing shoes, there isn't much we can do with them. Right Well It turns out that those dusty pairs of shoes you have in the back of the closet might have some use after all.

To avoid having those sneakers sit in a landfill for the next 25 to 40 years, just try to hold off on kicking them there. Instead, let's figure out how we, as environmentally conscious people, can get rid of them in a way that is both productive and satisfying. You'll find the perfect use for those worn-out sneakers after reading this post, I'm positive of it.

Where should I put the shoes that I no longer need?

Can you picture yourself cleaning out your closet and sitting on the floor, pulling out shoe after shoe that you forgot you had? You look down at the pile of shoes you're holding and notice a heel that doesn't fit, a faux leather boot you no longer enjoy wearing, and a pair of old Converse with a sole that clearly resembles Swiss cheese. Just what can you do under those conditions?

I know you want to just toss them in the trash and be done with it, but please try to resist the urge. They shouldn't be discarded in that manner if you care about environmental preservation. There are lots of responsible approaches, but I won't give you any hints just yet. The primary argument against discarding shoes is the harm it causes to the environment.

What effect does discarded footwear have on the planet?

To begin, it's important to note that the footwear industry as a whole engages in some rather unsavory practices.

A typical pair of running shoes produces about 13.60 kilograms of CO2 emissions, releases nasty chemicals found in materials like glues, rubbers, plastics, and leather, and, of course, pollutes waterways with microplastics during production. Oh, and I almost forget to mention this minor point: the vast majority of the world's footwear is produced in nations with weak worker protection laws, where factory safety is often disregarded and workers' rights are often disregarded.

Just the environmental impact of production and the seedy pre-consumer side of the shoe industry have been mentioned so far; if you're shocked by this, you're in for a real treat. Let's get to the heart of this post and discuss the post-consumer impact, or what happens to your old shoes when you throw them away in a landfill.

You probably already know that most shoe materials, including polyester, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA), and thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), are plastics or plastic-like substances. There is good reason to believe that the ubiquitous use of plastics made from petroleum represents a significant threat to global ecosystems. Because they don't break down in nature, that is.

Typical footwear takes 25–40 years in a landfill before it begins to "degrade," and even after 80 years, the vast majority of shoes have not broken down. Everything in its path will be harmed by the pollution of soil, air, and water caused by its decaying remains.

Let's do some quick math just to give you an idea of the environmental impact of shoe waste: the average Canadian tosses away approximately 37 kilograms of textiles per year, and if we multiply that figure by the total population of Canada, we get a whopping 1,390,830,000 kilograms of textiles per year ⁠— shoes included U.S. statistics estimate that at least 300 million pairs of shoes are discarded annually. S If that figure is accurate (it comes from the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. Interior Ministry), then us Yanks aren't all that far off from it. The amount of used footwear we throw away is overwhelming our landfills.

And the worst part is Most shoe companies, despite the obvious damage to the environment caused by their careless practices, continue to treat trash as if it were a profit center. These companies don't provide their consumers with any sort of program or newsletter that tells them how to properly dispose of old sneakers or how to keep them in good condition for as long as possible.

It's no surprise that this is the case in today's consumerist society, but hey, change is needed. And if the majority of shoe companies are unwilling to lead the way, then let's do it ourselves online. It's time to get educated on some eco-friendly options for getting rid of old footwear, and the obvious place to start is with recycling.

Sad but true: Quantis, a sustainability consulting firm, estimates that the footwear industry is directly responsible for at least 1 This accounts for only 4% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Although this may seem like a negligible amount, consider that air travel is responsible for 2 If you consider that 5 percent of total emissions is a sizable amount, you'll see why

Should I throw away worn shoes, or can I recycle them?

You probably think of recycling whenever you have a worn-out pair of shoes. What I want to know is, can it be done in practice?

Okay, so I have some good news and some bad news The good news is that old shoes can be recycled through certain programs, but the bad news is that not all community recycling centers accept them. That's because there are a few things that occur when old shoes are recycled.

Most shoe soles are made of a durable rubber that can be repurposed even when the upper has worn out. Even though footwear is notoriously difficult to recycle, this material can be melted down and used to create brand new products. In addition to rubber, many of the plastics I listed above are also used in the construction of the shoes we wear every day. Some are recyclable on their own, but recycling them with others that aren't (like PVC) is problematic because the materials can't be separated during collection or processing.

Don't let this deter you, though; as I said before, there are initiatives like Terracycle's that make it possible to repurpose your old footwear. For more information on these and other available resources, please continue reading below.

Can you recycle your shoes?

You should only throw away your footwear after verifying two things. The shoes were made entirely of one material, and they can be recycled at your community's designated center.

You're good to go if the soles of your shoes are made of a single recyclable plastic or a natural material like cotton, hemp, or wool. This eliminates the need to sort through trash to find recyclables, and increases the likelihood that your local recycling center will take them. Even so, I'll stress once more the importance of making sure they'll accept them. Visit their headquarters or give them a call to make sure all cardboard boxes are empty before recycling them.

Should you give away your old footwear?

Providing a pair of shoes to those in need is always appreciated. You can rest assured that your shoes will be given to a person in need. Since not every pair of shoes in your closet is completely worn out and some could use nothing more than a good washing, you have probably already given this some thought. Someone else's gain is your loss at that point.  

Where, though, can I take my old shoes to be recycled?" It's possible that you're wondering Fans of footwear will be happy to know that their donations can be accepted in a wide variety of settings across the country of Canada.

One such organization is Shoe Bank Canada, a charitable enterprise whose stated goal is to provide Canadians with the footwear they need.

The organization's greatest strength is that it encourages two distinct kinds of charitable contributions: the traditional kind, in which you simply gather the shoes you have at home and take them to one of their drop-off locations, and the other kind, which they refer to as a "shoe drive." Shoe drives involve collecting shoes of all shapes, sizes, and conditions from the local community and delivering or sending them to a collection point designated by Shoe Bank Canada. According to their own description, it's a great way to get everyone involved in making a difference in the community.  

Soles4Souls is another great organization for shoe donations because of how open they are about sharing information about themselves and their operations.

S4S is similar to Shoe Bank Canada in that it features both regular donations and shoe drives and accepts both new and gently used shoes of any size, shape, or style. Locate one of their drop-off points near your home and give your worn footwear a good home before you do the same. You can also estimate how much of a difference you'll make by donating your shoes through a tool available on the S4S website. Holy crap, that's awesome.

Lastly, I can't forget to mention the OG's Goodwill and The Salvation Army. Check with either of these organizations to see if they will accept your shoes if you can't find a donation center or shelter in your area that will. In addition, you can visit a local thrift store in the hopes of offloading those heels you only wore once to the prom.

Tips for Reusing Your Outdated Sneakers, Boots, and Heels

Imagine you have a pair of old, worn-out tennis shoes that you can't bear to throw away because they are in no condition to be of use to anyone else. You may recall that I mentioned that there are dedicated shoe recycling programs. So, let's talk about them now.

For starters, there's Terracycle, a non-profit organization working to make sure nothing ends up in a landfill. I just don't understand how they do it. Yes, they have a recycling program called the Zero Waste BoxTM. (You're well aware of our undying devotion to waste minimization.)

The Shoes and Footwear Zero Waste BoxTM is of particular interest, though they offer a variety of other recycling containers. After making a purchase on their website, you can use this container for storing anything from high heels and boots to sneakers and running shoes. All sorts of footwear are accepted, with the exception of in-line skates and ski boots.

Then, simply attach the prepaid return label to the box and return it to Terracycle. They'll take them and recycle them for you. Simple as a child's ABCs

To anyone who already owns a pair of Nikes, this should serve as a source of great pride. Nike is one of the few major shoe companies with an environmental initiative; this initiative is called Reuse-A-Shoe.

All shoe brands, not just Nike, are welcome to participate in this program. The process involves collecting shoes that customers have deposited in a Reuse-A-Shoe bin, shredding them, and turning them into Nike Grind, a material that can be used to create performance products, playground equipment, or running tracks, among other things.

But keep in mind that while Nike's Reuse-A-Shoe program currently accepts all brands of athletic sneakers, they cannot recycle boots, sandals, or shoes with spikes and studs. However, if a Nike store is in your area, it's a decent option to consider. [At the moment, this program is not active in either Canada or the United States; Nike is baling COVID; this is something we'll have to keep an eye on.

But what if you are an inventive type who wants to repurpose their old footwear? Which is where recycling comes in handy

Tips for Repurposing Outdated Shoes

To sum it up, here's the word: upcycling. Upcycling is the way to go if you, like me, enjoy giving old items a new lease on life. Replace the laces on your pair of Chucks, jazz up a pair of faded Vans with some paint, or even try mending the hole in your slippers; the point is to express your individuality through your footwear.

You can also try repurposing old footwear into something new. Put soil in your old shoes and plant whatever you like if they are too worn for mending and decorating. If you've seen the movie Wall-E, the sight of your little plant inside a boot will bring back fond memories.

Making stitched pillows or a travel journal/sketchbook from old leather shoes or boots is another great DIY project, but remember that upcycling doesn't have to be time-consuming or difficult. Closed shoes can be filled with sand to make interesting door stops, and work boots can be hung from trees to provide nesting sites for birds. You've probably heard that making the most of what you have is one of the keys to long-term success.

When is it time to retire an old pair of kicks?

You've had those shoes for so long that they're a mummy's version of themselves, and they're completely worn out, right? What are your options I'm afraid it may be time to throw away those old shoes if you can't donate, recycle, or upcycle them.

They should be thrown away, however, if they have gone bad on the inside and give off a bad odor, or if your dog has chewed them beyond repair. You can always prevent an old pair of shoes from being thrown away, but if those criteria are met, you can consider the effort futile.

When it comes time to get rid of an old pair of kicks, what do you do?

If your shoes are beyond repair, you can dispose of them in the trash rather than the recycling or compost bins that are part of the standard residential waste collection process. Honestly, even putting pen to paper on this is a struggle.

You might be able to dispose of them in one of Calgary's Throw 'N' Go bins, but before you do, you should determine if the city will accept them. Even when we put forth our best efforts, there may be limited outcomes. It's crucial that we explore all possible eco-friendly options before making any final decisions.

Here's a bonus tip: If you want to keep your shoes from decomposing to the fullest extent possible, give them as much love and attention as you can. Place them in a cool, dry place when not in use, wash them as soon as possible if they get wet in muddy water, and dry them completely before storing them. Use cleaning products designed for the specific fibers of your garments. If the shoes start to smell, stuff an unused black tea bag into each one and leave it there for a few days. As silly as it may sound, I truly believe that simply showing some affection for your footwear is all that is required.

To what extent should you stray from the norm when deciding how often to replace your

It's in your shoes to find the answer to this question. The amount of wear and tear, the type of shoe, and how often you wear them all affect how long your shoes will last.

Even if they don't look worn, some say you should replace your shoes every 500 to 600 kilometers. But I'm not convinced by that With proper care, a quality pair of leather dress shoes can last for as long as five years. The average lifespan of rubber-soled footwear is three years. Shoes have a ten-year lifespan at most, provided they are worn occasionally, stored in a dry place, and fixed before they become "uncomfortable or painful."

It's possible that you could injure yourself if you continue to wear shoes that don't provide adequate stability and comfort. To sum up, as a rule of thumb, you should replace your shoes if they start hurting your feet before you've had them for a year, or if you fix them and they hurt again.

Think outside the box when it comes to getting rid of your old footwear.

Putting on your shoes is like putting on a pair of old, comfortable friends. Those people who, no matter what, you know you can count on being there for you Shoes, however, have a finite lifespan, and you should not put up with worn ones. Next Steps

Used footwear was frequently discarded in landfills in days gone by. But times have changed, and people now find creative ways to get rid of their old shoes in a way that doesn't harm the environment.

We can't change the world, but we can change ourselves, and that includes the way we think about the environment by recycling, reusing, and donating our shoes. Furthermore, and this point cannot be emphasized enough, being eco-friendly does not have to entail boring and unimaginative chores but can be a lot of fun. To put it simply, upcycling rocks. That's why I, along with many other environmental journalists, find it to be the best option for giving old things a second chance at life.

Remember that we can recycle many different types of waste, not just old shoes Did you know that The Eco Hub is home to a plethora of resources for eco-friendly junk removal?

Finally, many companies are making an effort to reduce their negative impact on the environment by switching to more sustainable materials and fabrics. The Eco Hub has extensive coverage of eco-friendly footwear, including sneaker and sandal options.

Sharing is caring, so if you found this post useful, please forward it to someone who could benefit from it.

Unsplash photo by Jakob Owens