Shoes in circular economy
We do not want to waste resources. The products we buy are designed for long-term use emphasising the possibility of repairing or re-using them. If none of this is possible, the next option is recycling.
Shoe shopping for Children
Annually, 20 billion pairs of new shoes are produced. 300 million pairs end each year in a landfill. Here it takes between 30 and 40 years to decompose. A huge part of these shoes are children's shoes. This consumption is justified because between the age of one and four, each child will exchange about 16 pairs of shoes to support healthy growth.
What about the products that are in the market today? Recycling those is difficult at present, not to say almost impossible. Can we find a creative solution to help solve the lack of efficient technologies and recycle or reuse old shoes?
How are shoes recycled?
The question arises: why are old shoes not recycled, like plastic products? The problem of recycling a shoe is that they are made of many different parts and many different materials. All these parts are additionally joint, mostly using glues. In the recycling facility, this shoe will be sorted manually and then cut into pieces. This mixture is then gradually cleaned and sorted. The result is a stack of material that is a mixture of rubber pulp, leather fibres and foam granulates that are only suitable as insulating or building materials.
It is alarming to know that we found only two companies in the world that apply this technology to recycle shoes:
Nike launched the campaign Nike grind 25 years ago. Anyone can return their old sneakers (not just the Nike brand) to their stores. These are then recycled and used for example, as coverings for a artificial turf sports pitches.
Soex is a textile recycling company based in Germany that opened its shoe wear recycling factory this summer. The image below shows the different steps in there process.
Better Reuse than Recycle
Recycling is the last possible solution in the lifetime of the product. This means you extend the lifetime (but you’re still not making it a zero waste product). We would like to give children's shoes that are worn for only a few months, a second life before they are recycled.
To promote this, we propose a service that will offer modified shoes to other children. Our service consists of 5 steps to pimp and customise a worn shoe:
Create an Inflow of 2nd hand shoes (this can be by donations, buying big batches of worn shoes or customise on demand):
Cleaning the upper (mostly leather or textiles are industrially washed).
Attach a new outer sole (We give the shoes a new soles of made of recycled rubber)
Upgrade with a new inner sole (An organic hygienic inner sole made from organic hemp or wool).
Finally, the dipping to attach and protect (we dip the bottom of the shoe into a magical ecological rubberish substance that gives makes them water resistance and durable).
The final result of a dipped shoe will look like the picture bellow. This process is possible with almost any shoe you can imagine, large or small.
We will offer parents to subscribe these re-used shoes for their children. They could customise the style and color of the shoes. Upon payment of the subscription, the shoes will are send to the receiver, nicely packed in a box. The box also consists of a guide to measuring the size of their children’s feet. When the child grows out of the shoe, the parents send us the shoes back and choose a new pair in the right size on our webpage.
The shoes that are sent back to us undergo the same process and will be restored and customised to give them a new life, making the circle round.
Slow Fashion! Slow Shoe Wear?
More and more people are interested in slow fashion when customers buy quality products at smaller brands. Not only they support local production and decentralize the fashion industry, whose main production capacity is now Asian countries, but because of (thanks to) the higher value of each piece, they appreciate their clothes more. This significantly reduces the consumption of clothing per person and much fewer textiles in the incinerator.
Is it possible for a similar trend to permanently settle even in customer habits during shoe shopping?
How is it possible to motivate customers to buy quality shoes from quality materials that last long?
Why is it still normal for many people to buy new cheap leatherette shoes every year?
Ecological Materials must be a priority choice
In the future, we would also like to focus on designing our own children's shoes. The idea of the short-term rental of shoes should still be essential. Therefore, we need to create a design that uses the right materials to produce individual parts and fasteners. Fewer adhesives make it easier to disassemble the whole shoe and replace the worn parts. Biodegradable materials will reduce pollution to a minimum. Much research and testing has to be done before a shoe develops in the circular economy.