They were born in Indonesia and somehow made their way alone to Portugal where we met. Since then we have spent time together in Lithuania, Poland, various other bits of Europe, the United States and finally Mexico, where sadly today they have passed away.
Sometimes shoes are more than just shoes, they are friends and travelling companions. Some people share years of their lives with them but I have never managed to keep them alive for very long, maybe it’s the way I walk or maybe my feet are just corrosive or something but for a pair of shoes to have lasted this long is kind or miraculous and I’ve grown very attached to them.
All things must come to an end though, and at the point where your foot starts to poke out of your shoe in various directions, maybe they have exhausted their usefulness.
Here they were enjoying themselves on a trip to Warsaw last year…
Today they have been replaced by a new pair, similar but taller and redder, and only time will tell what adventures we might share together.
The question is… what happens to shoes once they die?
The answer in most cases is that people throw them into the rubbish bin where they end up in landfills where they will sit for centuries or being incinerated. These are neither environmentally sustainable or what feels like a fitting end for something that has served me so well. Surely there has to be a better option, doesn’t there?
You might try searching on Google (or preferably on Ecosia) and you will find hundreds of the typical arty crafty lists: use your old shoes to make a wall decoration, jewellery stand, book end, welcome sign, or other completely useless and not very pretty thing that you really don’t want or need. Most of these lists will have links to the same pinterest posts showing items of questionable beauty and craftsmanship. Quite apart from that though, whilst you might just change your fashion taste and realise that you are never going to wear a pair of almost new shiny things and that you would like to put them on public display, it doesn’t work so well with worn to death Converse that really don’t smell so great.
You will also find plenty of suggestions to use them as planters or nail them to trees for birds to nest in. These are valid ideas for a couple of shoes but no matter how big your garden is there are only so many ‘shoe planters’ that anyone could need and what if you don’t have a lot of outdoor space and do get through shoes worrying quickly.
So, here is what I think you should really do with your old footwear…
If your no longer desired shoes still have some life in them and could be useful to someone else then you should give them to a charity which will either sell them to raise funds or distribute them to someone who really needs to put something on their feet.
If, on the other foot, they truly have reached the end of their days then you should recycle them.
Simple, isn’t it?
Well, it should be but, as I have just discovered, the reality is that finding places to recycle them isn’t actually all that easy. There are places that you can do it but they seem to be hard to find, few and far between. It also all depends on the type of shoe that you want to dispose of.
Please let us know in the comments below about any shoe recycling programs that you know about, I’d be really happy to find and share more of them!
Sports shoes and sneakers (I have always wondered why they are called that) can be recycled in Europe and North America by taking them to a Nike store. Nike’s Reuse-a-shoe program will grind them up and use the material to make new shoes or a product that is used to surface running tracks, playgrounds and sports courts.
So that is where my old friends will be going, into a grinder and then to form a surface that kids will play on or athletes will reach for their dreams on. It seems like a pretty good ending.