What to do with old shoes? 11 best ways to recycle them UK

What to do with old shoes? 11 best ways to recycle them UK

Hand holding up trainer

Is your shoe rack overflowing and your spring clean demands fewer pieces of footwear? Or do you have a pair of shoes that are riddled with holes and simply can’t be worn anymore? Then you may be wondering what to do with your old shoes in the UK.

Well, for anyone that has found themselves in this predicament, you are in luck as we have assembled a handy guide outlining all the best ways to clear your shoe rack without adding to landfill.

Huge footwear market

In 2018 the global footwear market was worth a staggering $352 billion in sales and worldwide consumers were buying 14.5-19 billion pairs a year. To put this into perspective this is equal to roughly two pairs of new shoes for every person on the planet every year.

The last few years of a world gripped by pandemic and homeworking have impacted the sector, but it is expected to bounce back quickly. The value of the global footwear market is projected to reach $440 billion by 2026.

Mixed materials

Making our love of shoes an environmental problem, many shoes contain large portions of PVC and EVA. These synthetic materials contain toxic chemicals and take up to 1,000 years to decompose.

So, many of us have accumulated a sizeable shoe collection, with some pairs we never wear. We don’t want our unwanted footwear to end up as landfill waste, what can we do with it?

If you are looking to recycle your old running shoes, check out our running shoe recycling article.

What to do With Old Shoes in the UK

Yellow Converses
Photo by DANNY G on Unsplash

Shoes in Good Condition

If you have footwear in new or near new condition and are wanting to know what to do with your old shoes here in the UK, check out these options:

1.     Sal’s Shoes

How to participate: Mail shoes to the organisation or visit the drop off point

UK based organisation Sal’s Shoes has donated over three million pairs of shoes to people in over 50 countries. The organisation exists with the inspiring aim to give every child a pair of shoes and in turn better facilitate access to education. 

Shoes must, of course, be in good condition, and the organisation has a particular focus on children’s footwear. Sal’s Shoes is working to help those in need and provide every child access to quality shoes.

2.     vinted

How to participate: Sign up to sell shoes via the Vinted platform

If you have some extra shoes in great condition that you simply don’t wear, why not make some money? Platforms like Vinted provide an easy way to make some extra cash and promote a sustainable consumer mindset.

Almost any style of shoe can be sold through Vinted, including kids’ shoes. Meanwhile, you get the satisfaction of decluttering, saving shoes from polluting the world, and of someone else enjoying the shoes you no longer wear! 

3.     Shoe Aid

How to participate: Post shoes or visit a collection point.

The value of shoes is something that we may not always think about, but a pair of shoes for someone facing homelessness has incredible value. If you would like to donate shoes to the homeless, UK organisation Shoe Aid is one of the best options.

Shoe Aid collects and distributes men’s, women’s and children’s shoes. All items must be in good condition. For those facing financial hardship and homelessness, quality shoes can make a real difference.

4.     Charity Stores

How to participate: Donate in store

There are a range of charity shops that can be found in most towns across the UK. Some of the biggest are run by Oxfam, the British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK. Best of all, shoes donated help to support good causes. 

Old shoes on beach
Photo by Md. Zahid Hasan Joy on Unsplash

Okay Condition

If your shoes aren’t good enough to donate or sell but aren’t falling apart either then these are some ideas for you.

5.     Clarks Shoeshare 

How to participate: Donate shoes at participating Clarks stores

Partnered with Unicef, donating shoes to Clarks’ shoeshare schemes helps to support education initiatives around the world. A donation is made to Unicef for every tonne of shoes collected and since it began in 2008, the scheme has raised more than £1.6 million to help give every child access to quality education.

6.     Asics Take-Back Scheme

How to participate: Bring shoes to a participating ASICS sponsored race expo.

Asics’ recycling scheme is providing a great way to dispose of old shoes, no matter what brand they are. Shoes in good condition are found new homes, while those that are worse for wear are recycled into anything from dishcloths to toy stuffing.

When you donate to the scheme you also get a voucher for your next Asics purchase, win, win!

7.     Adidas Take-Back Scheme

How to participate: Participate through the adidas app

Have some adidas kicks that have seen better days? Adidas has partnered with Stuffstr to provide consumers with a sustainable way to get rid of their old adidas styles. Simply return your old footwear to Stuffstr and products will either be resold or recycled depending on quality, and you can enjoy a voucher for the online adidas store.

Shoes in a cobbler's
Photo by Dmitrij Paskevic on Unsplash

8.     get friendly with a Cobbler

If you aren’t feeling quite creative enough to change the style of your shoes yourself or they just need a bit of repairing, then taking them to a cobbler is a great option. From fixing holes to, stretching, dyeing or replacing soles, cobblers can give a new life to old shoes and make them seem brand new again!

9.     Upcycle into a cool new Style

Are your shoes good enough to keep wearing but you aren’t loving the style anymore? Then consider getting creative and giving them a refresh. 

There are many options from using fabric or shoe paint to give them a new pattern or design, dyeing them a new colour (easy especially for suede with a can of shoe spray paint), changing laces or adding chic patches with your favourite fabrics. Give your tired shoes a much-needed glow up and make a new style that you’ll love to wear!

Girl upcycling old shoes into something new
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

10.     Make Something New

If you still don’t know what to do with your old shoes, then transforming them into something new is a way to give your worn footwear a whole new lease of life. A popular project is turning your favourite kicks into a trendy planter. 

There are a variety of online tutorials if you need some inspiration or you can get creative and make those old shoes into something useful, trendy or eye-catching.

Poor Condition

For those of us who want to know what do with old shoes that are beyond saving, the old faithful pairs that are now full of holes and tears, there is still a sustainable solution.

11.     Recycling Centres

How to participate: Drop shoes off at a recycling bin or centre

If your old shoes are too worn to be sold or donated, are beyond upcycling and are too full of holes to make a cute planter, then a recycling centre is really the only way to go. Disposing of shoes through a recycling centre stops them from ending up in landfill or polluting the oceans and promotes a circular system of recycling and reuse.

There are recycling centres and drop-off points located around the UK, making it easy to find one close to where you live and those old, unwanted shoes can be turned into something brand new.

The sustainable and ethical way for old shoes

Old shoes recycled into a planter
Photo by Jonathan Borba from Pexels

Whether it’s a favourite pair of running shoes that have been worn to tatters, heels that just don’t feel like you anymore or quality school shoes your child grew out of in seemingly three seconds, there are sustainable, ethical and economical ways to give your old shoes a whole new life.

So whether you are selling, donating to the homeless, making a funky planter or sending them to recycling, don’t let your footwear waste end up in landfill and choose an option that treads lightly on the Earth.

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