Can Shoes Be Recycled?

Thinking of throwing out your old shoes but not sure if they should go in the recycling bin or not?


Or are you thinking about repurposing your old and beat up sneakers into a garden ornament?

There are some things you need to know before chucking your shoes wherever you feel.

The short answer is this:

Shoes can go in the recycling bin as the different materials will be ground down and repurposed for playgrounds, tracks, and even carpet underlay! Otherwise you can donate them to a second-hand store or repurpose them into something else.

What Are Shoes Made Of?

Shoes are typically made out of rubber, plastics, synthetics, leather, foam, and textiles.

Some of these are natural materials but some are not.

When shoes go into the landfill they take years to break down.

The first to break down is the natural materials that the manufacturers used.

Then of course we are left with the leather which can take about 20 – 40 years to break down.

Now you might be saying that that’s not a problem.

But when we are manufacturing 24.2 billion shoes per year, we are putting more in the environment quicker than they can break down.

If that wasn’t shocking enough.

PVC and EVA make up about 35% of all shoes. It sits in the ground for about 1000 years before breaking down completely.

Can You Put Shoes in the Recycle Bin?

Yes, many people do not know that shoes can go in the recycling bin.

Many others will say to take them to your local second-hand shop, donate to friends and family, your local Goodwill, etc.

These are all good places, but they can also get repurposed into other things if put in the recycling bin.

I mean, where else do you think they get the material to make carpet underlay, padding for playgrounds, track tops, and more.

Carpet Underlay

I would rather my old shoes go to something that’s getting put to use instead of taking an eternity to break down in the ground.

When to Donate Shoes

Studies show that we buy about 7 new pairs of shoes per year, which adds up to be 1 pair every 7 weeks.

That’s a lot of shoes.

More often than not they aren’t even getting worn as much as they should be.

We’ve already bought our next pair while the rest has only had a few miles in them.

In these cases it’s okay to donate them because they haven’t been worn much and could be a gold mine for someone else.

When you find that you aren’t wearing your shoes and they keep making their way further and further to the back of the closet, then you may want to donate them instead of letting them dry-dot.

When It’s Not Okay to Donate

You wouldn’t want to wear a 2-year old beat up pair of shoes, would you?

Old shoes can have all sorts of bacteria growing inside, and donating them to other people is like a slap in the face more than anything.

Also worn out shoes are bad for your feet.

Once the cushioning is gone, your feet strikes the ground at an awkward angle which causes pain in areas like the ankles, knees, hips, etc.

In my opinion it is not okay to hand your nasty ass shoes to someone else, even if they need them.

Buy them a new pair of shoes if you really want to help!

If you don’t want to throw them away, recycle or repurpose into something else that you can use around the house.

There are hundreds of different things to do with old, beat up sneakers.

I found 10 ideas here

When Should You Trash Old Shoes?

In my opinion, never.

Even if they are too far gone and in no shape to be donated or damaged beyond repair, there is still a new playground that needs padding.

There is a new house that needs new carpet.

There’s a new rug that needs making.

There are thousands of ways that your old shoes can be put to better use than in the ground.

Instead of throwing them in the trash, simply opt for the recycling bin instead!

Lets Recap

Ways to recycle your old shoes

Your 3 options are as follows: the recycle bin, donation or repurpose.

Making it into an ornament will give it a second life.

And donating them will give you a peace of mind since they’re not going to a landfill.

Anyway, many donated shoes are sent overseas to developing countries, where those who REALLY need them, wear them.

Most of the time the shoes are washed thoroughly and repaired before being sent overseas.

So you don’t need to worry about someone else sharing your years of fungi build-up🤢🤮

Lets recap:

  • Shoes can take anywhere from 10 – 1000 years to break down in a landfill
  • Shoes can be put in the recycling bin and repurposed into things we use on a daily basis
  • Old shoes can also be repaired and reused
  • They should never be trashed when there are far better options
  • Don’t give your hand-me-downs to someone if you know they won’t get repaired or washed before being worn

When In Doubt

If you’re still in doubt about what to do, simply toss them in the recycling bin.

The recycling bin is your best friend in this situation.

This is of course, if you don’t think they’re good enough to be donated or don’t think they’ll be repaired before someone else wears them again.

And I don’t blame you.

I would not want to share someone else’s bacteria build-up either.

And that’s a wrap.

Please leave all your questions and concerns in the comments below!


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