Nike wants to turn your old tennis shoes into brand spanking new athletic surfaces! The recycling process is very simple. Nike has placed Reuse-A-Shoe bins in 300 locations across the United States as well as in drop-off locations in Australia, New Zealand and Western Europe. These drop-off locations accept shoes from any brand, not just Nike sneakers. It is important, however, that the shoes are clean and that they do not have any metal cleats. Nike does not currently recycle dress shoes or flip-flops. If you do not live near a drop-off location, you can ship your old athletic shoes to the Nike processing center in Wilsonville, Oregon. (Address: Nike Recycling Center c/o Reuse-A-Shoe, 26755 SW 95th Ave., Wilsonville, OR 97070.) However, consider the carbon footprint of shipping your shoes. It may actually be “greener” to donate your old shoes locally or to find a creative use for them at home (i.e., gardening shoes or even a chew toy for the dog) than to ship them across country.
Once enough shoes have been collected at a drop-off location, they are shipped in bulk to one of Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe processing centers. These recycling centers are located in Wilsonville, Oregon and Meerhout, Belgium. (Once again, it is important to investigate the environmental impact of Nike’s shipment methods. Nike claims to ship shoes in the largest quantities possible to reduce the environmental impact, but there may be a more environmentally friendly way to recycle your old athletic shoes at home.)
After being collected and shipped to one of Nike’s recycling centers, your old athletic shoes are ripped apart. The shoes are divided into three sections: the rubber outsole, the foam midsole and the fabric upper. Outsoles, midsoles and uppers are each sent along a separate conveyor belt where they are ground into material that can be used anew. Material from the rubber outsoles is used to make playground surfaces and running tracks as well as outsoles for new shoes. Material from the foam midsoles is transformed into cushioning material for outdoor tennis courts and basketball courts. Material from the fabric uppers is used to create pads placed beneath indoor volleyball courts and basketball courts. Zipper pulls, buttons and snaps are also fabricated from Nike Grind rubber and foam.
Nike’s recycling facilities are currently working to their capacity. The brand is one of the only major shoe companies to implement such a major shoe-recycling project. For more information about how to donate shoes as an individual, or to learn how to apply to run a Nike Reuse-A-Shoe shoe drive, visit Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe website at http://www.nikereuseashoe.com.