Since I started running in 2008 there have been a number of things that I’ve noticed. I’m fitter, feel better, and think clearer. The other thing that I’ve noticed is that I buy a lot of running shoes. I’m not addicted to shoes by any means, but I run approximately 60 kilometers a week in training and then add the marathons and running events to that and you see the numbers add up. In my basement storage space I have a closet full of worn out shoes. It is generally the uppers that wear out the fastest I find, though a loss of traction is also an issue.
Last year alone I purchased 4 pairs of running shoes and over 2000 km of running including three city marathons and four mountain marathons completely destroyed the shoes. The question always remains though, what can be done with the shoes?
Believing that I would one day come up with a brilliant scheme to process and recycle my shoes, I have not been throwing them in the garbage but saving them. The other day I was speaking with a shoe manufacturer and asking them about shoe recycling and I was told that it is currently too difficult. But I decided to look around on the Internet again for a program that recycles shoes.
I found that Nike has such a program in place. They turn shoes into three different sport surfaces:
The fabric (uppers) –> basketball court underlay
The foam (midsole) –> tennis courts
The rubber (outsole) –> running tracks
This program does not exist in Switzerland, but it does in Germany and there is even a Nike shoe recycling plant in Belgium.
Here is my idea:
On April 22, 2012 the Zurich Marathon will take place for the tenth time. Nike is one of the official sponsors. Nike should set up a giant shoe collection for recycling at this year’s marathon. With over 6,000 runners and many more spectators this could be a huge drive to collect shoes. Furthermore, the city of Zurich or other developers could already work with Nike to possibly purchase some of the flooring components that will be made with the shoes.
On their site, Nike says that they will recycle running shoes from every brand, but stress that they can only recycle running shoes. Furthermore, the shoes cannot have any metal components like spikes (so no cleats).
Beside the shoe drive for broken and worn-out running shoes, it would also be great to have a shoe donation. It has happened to me that I’ve tried on a new pair of shoes in the shop, they felt great, I bought them, but when I actually went to use them I didn’t like the way they felt. These shoes could be donated to people in other countries, who would benefit from having protection for their feet.
Any major event that brings thousands of people together should by its vary nature also seek to increase social responsibility and address a social need. Shoe recycling addresses the environment and shoe donations raise poverty awareness.
Every year the Swiss pay more than 50 million francs for running shoes.* In Germany that number is over 165 million euros**. That is a lot of running shoes. In Switzerland that’s more than 200,000 pairs of shoes.
According to a report in National Geographic, it takes approximately 80 million liters of water to produce a million francs worth of shoes. Or 80 liters for every franc of shoe value. The environmental impact of shoe production must not be underestimated.
*This number was 48 million in 2000, so it must surely be much higher now.
**This number is from 2008, and is probably also higher now.