Blog: Leonie BarrieThese boots are made for walking.... and walking

Leonie Barrie | 31 July 2006

An astonishing 17 billion pairs of shoes are made every year worldwide – and most of them will end up in landfill sites after just one or two years. It’s a frightening thought, and one that’s obviously perplexed researchers at Loughborough University in the UK. A team here is leading a European consortium of 54 organisations – including businesses, technology providers, research and development institutes, and other universities – in a project to recycle old shoes into new footwear or even for generating energy.

Some of the ideas include reintroducing old shoes back into the market by repairing and polishing them; recovering sole and upper materials to put into new shoes; re-using parts of the shoe to make other products; or utilising discarded shoes to generate energy or other useful by-products.

It’s a commendable project. As Dr Shahin Rahimifard, director of the Centre for Sustainable Manufacturing and Re-Use/Recycling Technologies (SMART) at Loughborough University points out, at the moment a very limited number of sports trainers are being recycled which means that tonnes of perfectly good material is sent to
landfill every year.

And of course the problem is made worse by current trends in fashion shoes that are often discarded after just one season.


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