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The Green Life: Hey Mr. Green, How Should I Give Old Shoes the Boot?

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December 21, 2011

Hey Mr. Green, How Should I Give Old Shoes the Boot?

Bob Schildgen is Mr GreenHey Mr. Green, 

Where can I recycle shoes that are no longer wearable? I can only find places that take gently used pairs.

--Astrid in Gloucester, Massachusetts

There are plenty of recyclers of new or gently worn shoes, like Soles4Souls, that donate the pairs they collect to folks in need.

But since yours are beyond that blessed condition, you have two options: Be a cheapskate like me and push the boundary between "unwearable" and "repairable" by fixing shoes with glue, or even resorting to extremist tactics like sewing sandals back together with used dental floss.

For a saner solution, imitate folks who creatively reuse shoes by resurrecting them as pincushions, bookends, or doorstops. And why not? Shoes can contain profound meaning, as they do in Van Gogh's famous paintings — although running shoes that memorialize shin splints and podiatrists may be more post-traumatic than artistic. 

As for thoroughly thrashed running shoes, check out RecycledRunners.com. And keep in mind that Nike is repenting for its widely known environmental sins with a shoe-recycling service. Go to NikeReuseAShoe.com to find out where to take old pairs; you can drop off shoes of any brand, but they have to be sporty (no sandals or heels, please). The company grinds them up and turns them into squishy surfaces like athletic tracks or materials for new shoes. Nike says that it's recycled 25 million pairs since 1993.

But with U.S. running-shoe sales now totaling almost 40 million per year, it's obvious that millions more could be reused or recycled. 

Got a question for Mr. Green? Submit it here.

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