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Recycle Those Stinky Old Sneakers

By Green Diva Meg
March 6, 2012
File under: Eco-Friendly Activities, Environmental Concerns, Fashion, Fitness, Lifestyle, Recycling, Sustainable Practices, Waste Reduction

Why Should We Care? by Green Diva Meg
These posts explore a myriad of topics relating to green, sustainable and healthy living and offer simple and clear information from the fun and quirky point of view of the Green Divas. Each post provides practical, no nonsense information on What Can We Do to make a difference.

Why Should We Care About Recycling Sneakers?

I recently climbed into my closet and unearthed a PILE of sneakers – tennis shoes, 2 pairs of running shoes, those weird calf-building things, cross-trainers. Seriously? All three of my daughters wear the same size shoe and none of them were interested in any of them. huh. I usually put shoes that aren’t too badly beat up in the nearby Goodwill depository, but I had heard about some interesting sneaker recycling programs. So, I did some homework. Here’s what I learned . . .

Most sneakers are made from natural and synthetic rubbers and synthetic foam, which is primarily composed of polyurethane and ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA). The upper portion is usually mesh or natural or synthetic leather. [ from article]

In 2008, Runner’s World Magazine did a fairly in-depth study on the carbon impact of running. The Bonneville Environmental Foundation supported their research. They found that the average serious runner (of which I am NOT), burns through 3 pairs of running shoes a year and this represents 430 pounds of CO2. Not exactly sure what that means, but it was quadruple any other running gear, and the CO2 output is more than driving 400 miles. I’m also not sure this takes into consideration the issue of landfills being loaded w/ nasty old sneakers that mostly don’t biodegrade very well either.

So, What Can We Do?

Apparently you can do a lot with the rubber and foam from your sneaks. Both rubber and polyurethane can be reclaimed and reused, and manufacturing with reclaimed rubbers and foams is often more energy-efficient and much less expensive than using virgin material.

1. Recycle Those Stinky Old Sneaks!

Nike Grind Program & Nike Reuse-a-Shoe

Nike is using recycles sneakers and athletic shoes to make surfaces for synthetic outdoor courtssynthetic indoor courtsplaygroundstracks, new sneakers and equipment. 24,249,000 sneakers collected since 1990!

2. Donate the Not so Nasty Sneakers & Shoes!


Soles4Souls is a Nashville-based charity that collects shoes from the warehouses of footwear companies and the closets of people like you. The charity distributes these shoes to people in need, regardless of race, religion, class, or any other criteria. Since 2005, Soles4Souls has delivered over 17 million pairs of new and gently worn shoes. The shoes have been distributed to people in over 127 countries, including Kenya, Thailand, Nepal and the United States.

3. Buy Sneakers Made From Recycled Materials and/or Biodegrade

Brooks – Green Silence

BioMoGo, the world’s first-ever biodegradable midsole for running shoes

While shoes with traditional Ethylene Vinyl Acetate™ (EVA) midsoles can last up to 1,000 years in a landfill, Brooks shoes with BioMoGo will biodegrade 50 times faster in an active enclosed landfill

  • 75% of the shoe’s materials are post-consumer recycled
  • Biodegradable insole and collar foams
  • Laces, gillies, and reinforced webbing are 100% post-consumer recycled
  • Water-based adhesives are used throughout
  • All dyes and colorants are non-toxic
  • Packaging is 100% post-consumer recycled

NewSKY by NewBalance – made from 95% recycled PET (plastic bottles)

4. Listen to the Green Divas Sleeping Naked is Green Podcast on Recycling Your Running Shoes

More Why Should We Care Fun!

Please join us in being part of the solution! Watch the Green Divas short YouTube video and visit our Why Should We Care Campaign page and enjoy our silly video, donate and share (and get some awesome goodies when you do)!

Meanwhile, we are busy lining up even more interesting high-profile folks (we’ve already talked to Ed Begley, Jr. & Jessica Alba), who are passionate about a variety of causes that help to make this a better world, for this ongoing feature on the radio show. Look forward to hearing from Fran DrescherFrederique and Carol Alt – all beautiful, passionate women using their power of celebrity and success for good - in the coming few weeks! More fun surprise guests for this segment soon to be announced!

The Green Divas Radio Show, podcasts, audio vignettes and blog posts feature fun and low-stress ways to live a deeper shade of green, while maintaining some comfort and style. Green Diva Meg, co-host Green Diva Lisa and sidekick, Green Dude Scott offer tons of easily accessible information and resources to help make the journey to a more sustainable world easier and a little more fun and entertaining. The radio show broadcasts live every Saturday morning from WMTR 1250 AM in Northern, NJ/NY Metro area, streaming live on, or catch up on the podcast.

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