How to recycle old shoes

Old pairs of shoes in concentric circles

Many of us want to know what to do with old shoes. Luckily there are various options available for recycling shoes to help minimise waste and promote sustainability, so you shouldn’t need to throw away old shoes and have them end up in landfill.

One option is to donate gently used shoes to charity shops or organisations that accept footwear donations – such as Shoe Aid.

For shoes that have had extensive wear, are broken, or are no longer fit for use should be replaced. Wearing shoes that are too small can not only cause your child pain, but could damage their feet and toes and prevent normal growth and development. It’s why we advocate measuring and checking the fit of children’s shoes regularly. Similarly, it’s also the reason behind us crafting and making shoes specifically designed for children and their unique foot shape – and not just scaled down versions of adult shoes.

Even though you may have a really worn out or damaged pair of shoes, it doesn’t mean they need to end up in landfill. You can often still recycle them.

Some recycling centres or specialised shoe recycling programs accept worn-out or damaged shoes. These programs may use different methods to recycle shoes, such as breaking them down into raw materials for manufacturing new products or repurposing them for other purposes like playground surfaces or insulation.

How can I recycle old shoes?

It’s important to note that not all shoes are recyclable, as it depends on the materials used in their construction. While many shoes can be recycled, certain factors such as the type of materials, adhesives, and components used may affect their recyclability.

Shoes made from materials like leather, fabric, rubber, or certain types of plastics are generally more recyclable. These materials can be broken down and repurposed into new products or used for other applications. However, shoes that contain non-recyclable materials, such as certain types of synthetic fibres or mixed materials that are difficult to separate, may pose challenges for recycling.

The easiest shoes to recycle are the ones that your pre-schooler one has outgrown – children grow so quickly at this age that the chances are these are still in good, wearable condition and can be donated to a local charity shop or popped into a clothes and shoe bank at a local supermarket ready to be donated to someone in need.

The availability and specific processes for shoe recycling may vary depending on your region and local recycling facilities. Therefore, it is advisable to check with your local authority or recycling centre to determine the most appropriate and accessible options for shoe recycling in your area.

Can you put old shoes in the recycling bin?

Typically, you can’t put your old shoes in your at-home recycling bin. They need to be taken to a dedicated clothes and shoes bank, of which there are thousands around the country. These are often at your local tip, or around town at local supermarkets, village halls or libraries to name a few locations!

Where can I recycle old shoes?

Most charity shops will happily take worn shoes that are in a wearable condition. They don’t need to be perfect, but shouldn’t be broken or damaged; general signs of wear is perfectly acceptable.

For shoes that are broken or showing more than a little wear, your best bet is a recycling bank. Chances are there is one closer than you think. A quick web search should be able to direct you to your nearest.

If you feel the shoes are too far gone to be recycled you can still pop them in the clothes bank or donate to a recycling organisation. These will be broken down into their parts and recycled as much as possible.