‘We are willing to change the whole shoe industry’

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The velcro Silver Series shoe can hold its own with Air Jordans in at least one metric: It takes them both up to 40 or more years to decompose. 

The world’s footwear waste problem has turned into a mission for FastFeetGrinded, located in the Netherlands. The company claims to be recycling more than 2,400 shoes per hour, preventing 7.9 tons of air pollution from being released. What’s more, the process recycles 100% of the footwear. 

“We are willing to change the whole shoe industry,” company CFO Erna Pormes-Redecker said to Business Insider. “It’s very hard, but we’re doing it.”

BBC reported that more than 23 billion pairs of shoes are put on store shelves around the world each year. Sadly, 300 million kicks are trashed annually. 

Shoes are made of various plastics, rubbers, and other synthetics. FastFeetGrinded experts said on the company website that it can recycle all those materials, including leather. 

The company uses the recycled components to construct other products, including elements for playgrounds and outdoor sports centers. Better yet, the footwear chewings can be used to “make shoes from shoes,” a company video clip explains. 

The project was started in 2016 by Pormes-Redecker and her husband, Danny Pormes, the CEO. They had two decades of industry experience, including as a supplier for their country’s defense department. The government wanted the entrepreneurs to find a way to incorporate recycling into the supply chain, per FastFeetGrinded’s bio. 

“Most of the people, in the beginning, they are laughing,” Pormes-Redecker told Insider. “But now they are saying to us, ‘My God this is so, so good that you have been fighting to do this, to make it right, and to get it done.'”

The process includes conveyor belts that feed large grinders with shoes, which are broken down with “heat and friction,” per Insider’s report. 

The company claims to be the “world’s first shoe recycling center” of its kind. However, certain brands already have shoe recycling programs. Other innovations include 3D printing footwear as part of the effort to make the industry more sustainable. 

But FastFeetGrinded seems to be unique in its all-encompassing process. The grinders process worn-out shoes, waste from shoe manufacturing, and unused samples, gathered from collection points in 15 countries, including the United States. 

Asics has even started working with the recyclers to develop shoes. However, the footwear giant’s sustainability manager, Romy Miltenburg, told Insider that they can’t be used for “high-performance” use yet. 

“If we take our highest performance running shoe, making that entirely from circular recycled materials, it won’t have the same functional properties still,” Miltenburg said in the story. 

But the experts are working toward an all-circular offering. 

“Hopefully, it will not be just a cool side project, but something we can really implement into the way we make shoes at large,” Miltenburg said.

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