Reducing Shoe Waste

Jun, 09, 2021

We all wear shoes  however, most of us never think about what happens to shoes when we’re finished with them. I used to either donate or give away old shoes, but I would send some broken and worn ones to a landfill. In the U.S. alone, roughly 300 million pairs of shoes are thrown away each year and end up in a landfill, where they may take as long as 1,000 years to break down. During that time, the shoes will leak chemicals like ethylene vinyl acetate. This is environmentally irresponsible and has a huge impact on the planet for centuries.

So what are our options? Well, I’m happy to say there are some organizations with goals of trying to reduce the impact of shoe waste, which includes Reuse Your Shoes and Usagain. Usagain collects worn shoes and sends them to developing countries. Furthermore, at their stores, Nike collects unusable worn shoes for a program that turns them into athletic equipment and material for running surfaces. Adidas has taken a step further and designed a sport shoe made from made entirely from yarns and filaments produced using plastic salvaged from the ocean. Terracycle also have boxes for shoes and that is what my family use for those worn out and broken shoes.
So, basically our options are to get as many miles out of our sport shoes as possible, send them off to get recycled when they’re used up, and consider shoes made from recycled materials or a biodegradable shoe option for our next pair.
Biogradable shoes
Shoe recycling
Green shoes

Fredrika Syren

Fredrika Syren is an environmental activist and writer. In 2016, she founded the website Green-Mom.com where she shared her family’s journey of living zero waste. She lives in San Diego, California with her husband James and their children Bella, Noah, and Liam. Fredrika and her family were recently featured in the documentary Zero Time to Waste. Fredrika is also the author of Zero Waste for Families - A Practical Guidebook (which you can buy on this site)


  1. Reply

    Stephanie Louise

    September 7, 2015

    Awesome Information “Green Mom”! Personally, I do not donate shoes. I have a particularly contagious strain of foot fungus (athlete’s foot) and I often skip donning socks. I love that you told me about the Nike and Adidas green shoe programs! Thank you! Now it is an even happier Labor Day!

    • Reply

      Green Mom

      September 8, 2015

      Hi Stephanie,
      Thank you so much and yes I guess I never thought about if you have a foot fungus:(

  2. Reply

    The Chic Ecologist

    September 11, 2015

    Hello Fredrica,
    Thanks for referencing my articles in your post, this is such great information and I am so happy to see it being spread to all of your readers as well! Hopefully we can keep more shoes out of landfills and get people excited about the ever-expanding options for eco-footwear coming available by major shoe companies.
    Thanks again!
    -JP (The Chic Ecologist)

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