You’ve got a ratty pair of sneakers that have been sitting at the back of your closet for years.
You keep telling yourself you’ll get rid of them, but every time you take them out and hold them above the trash bin, you start to wonder if you really are just supposed to throw them out.
Is there a better solution, a better way to get rid of shoes?
As it turns out, there are many better ways. Here’s how to dispose of old shoes the right way.
What to Do with Old Shoes
If you’re wondering how to dispose of old shoes or want to know the best way to get rid of them, the answer is to recycle.
No matter where you live, you can find a way to recycle your old shoes. Many towns have donation bins for clothing recycling nowadays.
You can usually find them outside of community centers and large grocery store parking lots. If you don’t know where to start looking, your town website likely has a page on textile recycling.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for there, try looking over the local community center’s website; they may list it under services.
If you choose to recycle your old shoes in this manner, it’s as simple as driving up to a bin and throwing the shoes in.
You can also toss in bags of clothing but check with your town’s guidelines to make sure there are no restricted items.
Alternatively, there are several services and companies online that specialize in recycling old shoes.
If your town doesn’t have its own textile recycling service, it may employ the American Textile Recycling Service (ATRS).
American Textile Recycling Service
ATRS is a service that leases space all across America for donation bins. They take all textiles and either donate them locally and worldwide or recycle them into other products.
The under-mats in your car, for example, are made from recycled clothes.
ATRS also provides business owners the opportunity to host their own bins. When someone hosts a bin, ATRS will bring the bin to the store, set it up and pick it up again when it is full.
This is a fabulous way to bring fabric recycling to a town that doesn’t have the resources.
Some shoe companies have taken the initiative to start their own shoe recycling programs.
Nike, for instance, has a program called Nike Grind that works to move towards zero waste production.
If you have any old Nike brand shoes that have met their match, you can recycle them by bringing them into participating stores.
Nike will take back their shoes and recycle them into materials for new shoes. They even accept other brands of shoes; they don’t have to be Nike.
The only caveat is that they only accept athletic sneakers. Boots, sandals, dress shoes, and shoes with metal, like cleats, are not accepted.
TerraCycle is another company that is making steps towards a zero-waste future. Unlike the previous methods for recycling your shoes, with TerraCycle, you don’t even need to leave your house.
To get the process started, head to TerraCycle’s website and give them your address and what you want to recycle. They will then send you a box for the items.
All you need to do is put the old shoes in the box and ship it back. They take care of the rest. This program is terrific for anyone who doesn’t have access to the above methods.
If you live in a small town or somewhere out of the way, chances are you have to drive a fair distance to get to the closest recycling center.
Fortunately, TerraCycle provides a means to do the right thing for those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to.
Are There Any Shoes You Can’t Recycle?
While recycling shoes is one of the best options, the different rules of recycling plants can get confusing and feel limiting.
So, are there any shoes you simply can’t recycle?
From a physical standpoint, no. From a logistics standpoint, yes.
The shoes you can recycle depends on the place you give them to. Each company and program has different rules and regulations on what shoes they will and won’t recycle.
Unfortunately, this is not because some shoes simply can’t be recycled, but because some are too expensive to bother with. It always comes down to money.
Some companies will accept all shoes no matter the construction, while others will only take easy ones to grind up.
If shoes have cleats or buckles, are made of leather, or have certain kinds of plastics, many companies won’t bother recycling them as it is too much work and too expensive to take the shoes apart.
Most of the time, you can get around this by taking the shoe apart yourself and taking off the bits they don’t accept, or you can find another place to recycle them.
Other Ways to Dispose Of Old Shoes
While we’ve taken a look at just a few of many, many ways you can recycle your shoes, let’s examine some other methods for shoe disposal, namely, donating and upcycling.
Much like with recycling, you have two main options for donating: find a bin or ship it out.
Depending on how worn your old shoes are, some donation centers may not accept them.
Thankfully, many thrift stores will accept all donations and recycle the ones that are too worn themselves.
Either way, donating to a thrift store gets rid of your shoes in an environmentally friendly manner.
Donation centers and thrift stores are a great way to support the local community, and they make for an easy way to dispose of old shoes.
Unfortunately, not every town is equipped to deal with donations and thrifting. If you don’t have any second-hand shops in your area, consider some of these donation programs.
Soles4Souls is a worldwide organization that accepts new and used shoes and gives them to people in need.
This organization provides opportunities to help communities around the globe and save the environment at the same time.
They also provide free shipping out of the U.S.
Soles4Souls not only provides aid to developing nations and prevents landfill waste, but they also create jobs and opportunities worldwide for people in need.
If you don’t want to recycle or donate your old shoes, you can also upcycle them. By upcycling, you are taking something old and turning it into something new.
You may turn a pair of old boots into a book bag or use them for a costume or even an art piece. Some people have turned their old shoes into birdhouses and planters.
Upcycling is all about breathing new life into old items. You can get as creative as you like.
Another upcycling option is to take your old shoes to a cobbler. It is incredible how they can restore shoes at death’s door to near pristine quality.
You’d be surprised how often shoes you thought were long dead could be repaired.
Whether it’s a pair of new laces, a good polish, or a new sole, you can save your shoes for years to come with a quick trip to your local shoe repair shop.
Cobblers can work magic on all types of shoes. Cleaning, stretching, and reworking shoes can restore them to their original condition.
If you can’t afford a cobbler, don’t know of any nearby, or want to take matters into your own hands, you can always try restoring your shoes on your own.
Gluing the sole back on, washing them, or painting them to give them new life are all excellent ways to restore old shoes for future use.
Plenty of videos online can guide you through repairs, like this video on un-yellowing shoe soles.
If you have soft top shoes with holes, why not improve your sewing skills and get a few extra miles out of your shoes while you’re at it?
There are tons of ways to restore and repair old shoes. Most of what we end up throwing away just needs a little TLC.
Benefits of Recycling, Upcycling, and Donating Old Shoes
Recycling, upcycling, and donating shoes are some of the best ways you can prevent waste. Some 300 million pairs of shoes are thrown out each year in the U.S. alone.
Properly disposing of your shoes is an excellent first step to helping the planet.
If the ecological benefits are not enough for you, you can also take solace that donated shoes are going to help the less fortunate. Some donation centers also offer rewards for donating.
No matter how you choose to dispose of your old shoes, anything is better than putting them in the trash.
As you can see, there are many better ways to get rid of shoes than throwing them in the trash.
Donating them to people in need, turning them into something new, or recycling them is a wonderful way to prevent unnecessary waste and feel better about finally getting rid of that old pair of shoes in the back of your closet.
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