The Dow Chemical Company has partnered with national sports agency Sport Singapore (SportSG) on a project to divert 300,000 pairs of shoes away from landfill and drive circular economy solutions in Singapore.

Drawing on its technological and R&D expertise, Dow will work with Sport Singapore to transform shoes contributed by members of the public into jogging tracks, fitness corners and playgrounds.

The three-year circular economy project, which is said to be the first-of-its-kind in Asia Pacific, will collect used sports shoes — including school shoes and football boots without metal studs — from the general public. The rubberised soles and midsoles are then ground into rubber granules that are used as a material to build the sport infrastructure, partially replacing hazardous recycled tires. A water-based and solvent-free binder technology then binds the granules together. The result is environmentally friendlier and safer sports infrastructure.

The public can drop their used sports shoes at any of the 30 collection points including participating ActiveSG sport centres and stadiums, Decathlon stores, JD Sports stores and more than 30 education institutions (for students and staff only) across Singapore. The collection drive, which started last week, will end on 30 November.

"As we move away from a make-use-dispose society into one where circularity becomes ever more relevant today, collaborating with partners across the value chain such as Sport Singapore and the community is critical. We all have a role to play if we want a better outcome for the environment," said Jon Penrice, Dow president for Asia Pacific. "This project aligns well with our recently announced sustainability target to Stop the Waste where we will collaborate with like-minded partners to increase global recycling, enabling 1m metric tonnes of plastic to be collected, reused or recycled through partnerships by 2030."

A pilot project to test the feasibility of using recycled sports shoes to partially replace recycled tires was conducted for an initial 200 square meter area — approximately 100 meters 2-lane jogging track — at the yet to be unveiled Kallang Football Hub.

A team of R&D experts from Dow and Dow's business partner BT Sports working in Singapore perfected the process over a period of six months before the pilot project was completed earlier this year.

According to a report by market research company Statista, an estimated 22m pairs of shoes are sold in Singapore yearly. Statistics from the National Environment Agency indicate that 161,000 tonnes of textile and leather waste were disposed of in Singapore in 2019, of which, only 4% was recycled.