Waste Not Want Not: A Guide to Recycling Shoes + Textiles

August 19, 2019

Waste Not Want Not: A Guide to Recycling Shoes + Textiles

A "switched on" customer recently asked me: "but what do I do with your shoes when they've worn out entirely?". Such. A. Good. Question. And one I've thought about at great length as I move towards a waste-free lifestyle in a convenience-driven, packaging-laden society. 

Well, first off, there's fast fashion, which should be avoided so that we don't have to worry about disposing so much, so often. As I've said before, investing in quality and classic like our offerings at SOULiers Studio will mean that you can wear those pieces with pride year after year. With that, and seeking to repair your shoes and care for them over time should mean that you don't have to dispose of them very often. But there will come a time when those shoes are just, well, kaput. So then what? You don't want to send them to landfill. We have a garbage problem. North Americans throw out between 15 and 82 pounds of textiles (including shoes) annually. Most of this sadly ends up in landfills. 

I did some research to see what options are available out there for recycling and upcycling textiles. My takeaway is that we still have a long way to go to make responsible disposal of textiles a household habit and more importantly, to have the infrastructure to support its recycling. 

 All is not lost though! There are several options to consider and I've broken them down below. 

1. Check with a local charity like Diabetes Canada or Salvation Army or Shoe Bank Canada - in addition to accepting "lightly used" goods, they often accept spent goods that they will triage and send for recycling. Word to the wise, though, it's worth asking them where they send their items for recycling as often it's overseas. Ask them about their chain of custody on those goods to be recycled. Can they verify that the goods aren't simply going to landfill elsewhere? It's best if the goods can be recycled more locally since we really shouldn't make our problems someone else's problem. 

2. Google your city and "textile waste diversion" or "textile recycling". We checked out a few major Canadian urban centres and found some interesting options like: 

1. Toronto area - Markham Textile Recycling - Markham is pioneering textile recycling in Canada, offering curbside pick-up of clothes and shoes. They've even gone so far as to ban disposing of clothing in the garbage. Bravo Markham! 

2. Vancouver - Recycling Council of British Columbia - This is a great resource to determine access to textile recycling (both reusable and non-reusable clothing options) with a search function most municipalities within the province. Select from the drop-down menus and voila, they'll tell you where you can take your items for recycling. 

3. Montreal - Textile Waste Diversion - They set up bins in various municipalities. Although their website doesn't list locations, look out for them in your city. Alternatively, contact them to find out the locations of their collection bins near you. 

4. Ottawa - Capital Junk - will take away and recycle your clothes and shoes for a fee. 

3. Some big shoe brands have takeback and recycling programs. SOULiers Studio isn't there yet (although as you know, all of our products are hand-selected and screened to ensure they are vegan, ethically-made, and eco-conscious) but hopefully over time we will! As a brand, it's our responsibility to tread as lightly as possible on this earth where we're squatting :-). Native Shoes (all vegan, by the way!), has a takeback and recycling program. They grind up spent shoes and use the rubber for various sports court surfaces. Nike also has a similar program, although it's only available in the U.S. 

In our online travels, we were also reminded of the company TerraCycle. They partner with consumer packaged goods brands and offer a takeback program for packaging which they then upcycle into new and useful goods. A lot of the packaging they accept is not recyclable with municipalities so they are upcycling waste packaging into new and useful goods, giving spent packaging that would otherwise end up in a landfill, a new life. 


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