We have all become extremely aware of the environment and recycling. Sustainability is the word on everyone’s lips, but do you really know how to be sustainable?

Tennis Shoes & Landfills

Yes, you may know to buy your fruit and vegetable without plastic, to take your own carry bags to the supermarket, and to turn your leftovers into compost, but do you know what to do with your old clotting and shoes? More specifically, with tennis shoes?

You do not want tennis shoes to land in a rubbish dump or landfill. They take decades to decompose or they never decompose properly.

Most tennis shoes are made out of a variety of fabrics, including leather and cotton, often PVC and EVA, and they can literally take forever to decompose.

There are already more shoes than anybody knows what to do with. We have learned that over 24 billion pair of shoes are manufactured, every single year. The world’s population is 7.8 billion.

That is 3 pairs of shoes, per person, but consider that many of these billions of people don’t have access to any shoes, or only, old and threadbare shoes, it means that the average person has a lot of shoes, too many for their needs, and MANY get dumped rather than given away.

Where are the shoe recycling stations?

This is an excellent question because generally, it is not easy to find them. There are handy bins for plastic, paper and glass, but – where would tennis shoes go? It makes sense to donate them, or find a shoe bin (some of the major shoe shops have them) than to throw them in the wrong bin or in the trash.

Of course the first prize is to give your shoes, especially if they are still in a decent condition, to somebody else to wear. While they may be old and finished for you, they could still make somebody else’s life really happy.

So before you do anything with your shoes, like throwing them away, donate them to the homeless guy on the corner, or to a charity shop close by.

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There are options for recycling tennis shoes:

1. Let someone else wear them

This is the best solution. Let someone else use them.

Your shoes might still be in great condition, just not right for you. Give them to another tennis player. If your shoes are worn and had their day, somebody else might like them who doesn’t have any shoes! So before you toss them, and we urge you not to toss them, donate them.

2. Take the Shoes to Pieces, and Re-Use

If the soles are good, you can take them out and use them for another pair of shoes. If the laces are great but the shoes are not, keep the laces. Whichever parts of the shoes you are not going to use, find a recycling bin and not the trash. If you put your shoes in the trash, they are going to stay in a landfill for years and years.

3. Give them back to the brand

Many of the big brands now have recycling programs, or reusing programs. You can actually return your shoes to one of the outlets and your shoes will get made into – other shoes! Or, the brand themselves will donate them.

Let’s look at some of the brands who are reusing shoes.


Nike have a Reuse a Shoe campaign. It’s been going since 1993 and they recycle ALL sports shoes, not just Nike.

They separate the shoes into leather, plastic, rubber, foam and cotton, ground the pieces down, and reuse them in a variety of ways, including:

  • Other shoe parts
  • Playground surfaces
  • Sports surfaces, such as athletic tracks and fields
  • Carpet padding
  • Furniture

Nike have already reused over 33 million pairs of shoes.

A few of their concept stores include furnishings made from reused stores. They have even turned some of the shoes, that would have been in land fills for decades, into art.

You will have to find the stores that accept old shoes for recycling, known as Nike Reuse a Shoe Bins.

The last time we looked there were over 290 stores that did this, including Converse stores and Asics stores. Remember, these stores will recycle all sports shoes and sneakers, so if you have Adidas, New Balance, Salomons, or any style shoe, drop them off at the Nike stores for recycling.

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4. Organise a tennis shoe drive

This is similar to donating your tennis shoes, but it’s done on a large scale. Ask all your friends or members of your tennis club to bring their old tennis shoes one day.

Collect all the shoes and then drop them off at your charity of choice.

You might live in an area where there are lots of homeless people, in which case they would be delighted to have your shoes, and you might prefer giving them to a charity who will donate them on your behalf.

Either way, organise a shoe drive, ask everyone you know to help with their old shoes, and GIVE THEM AWAY FOR SOMEONE ELSE TO WEAR! This is always the best option!

5. Look for innovative options from brands

The good news, for the future, is that many shoe brands are choosing to find new ways to make their shoes, using recyclable material or more sustainable materials from the start.

Adidas FutureCraft Loop is a running shoe made of a single and infinitely recyclable material, and New Balance and Saucony are doing the same.

While this is a bit tricky for some tennis players, especially if they want the most durable of shoes, this is a great option for those sports people who are determined to have a low environmental impact.

6. Get your shoes fixed!

There are many fabulous cobblers out there and somebody will fix your tennis shoes for you, unless they are too far gone.

Remember you don’t need a new pair every time your shoes get a scuff, tear or a bit of damage. Take them to a cobbler. Get them resoled if necessary. A good cobbler will turn your old tennis shoes into new tennis shoes!

Now get those shoes on, lace them up, and go play a game. Good luck.