Can You Recycle Shoes? (And Are They Biodegradable?)

Aside from the air we breathe, there are many other things that humans can’t do without. One of such things is our physical appearance. Although physical appearance has many facets, the clothes and shoes we choose to wear hold great significance.

For shoes, they serve more than the purpose of completing our physical appearance; they also help us protect our feet from bruises and dirt. This has made them a critical part of our daily wears. From sports guy to medicine down to window washer, everyone wears shoes for one thing or the other.

Without a doubt, this is the way to go, as humans have outlived the stone age where wearing shoes for fashion or protection of the feet was inconceivable. Now, we are in a time of different sneakers, heels, brogues, and boots. But then, this new situation is not without its consequences.

While the consequences may not be direct, it doesn’t mean they should be treated with less attention. This is why this post will be considering the environmental effects of shoes. What, for instance, can old shoes cause to the environment? Can shoes be recycled? Are they biodegradable? How do you dispose of them, and lastly, what can you do with old shoes? There’s a lot to learn in this post, so why not sit back, fasten your belt and enjoy the ride.

Are Shoes Recyclable?

While trying to piece this post together, we stumbled on a piece of research that took us by surprise. It was by the American Apparel and Footwear Association. The research says that each American buys about 7 shoe pair within a year. For some shoe freaks, this is just their starting point.

If you multiply 7 shoe pairs per person by the current population of America, you will see that there are more than enough shoes every year. The following year, the cycle continues, and those of the previous years become old. So, in situations like this, what can you do with those old shoes. Can you recycle them?

The problem is that many of these shoes will end up in the landfill. The reason is that shoes are made with more than one material. And before you can recycle them, you would have to first separate the different materials.

Not many recycling companies can undertake this, and the easier option is for them to exclude the shoes from their recyclables. There are only a few recycling stations willing to take your shoes. And finding them can be a bit difficult.

But then, this does not have to be the end of those shoes. Later in this post, we will tell you how to repurpose your old shoes. So, don’t leave yet. Follow through to the end; there’s still more to learn.

Are Shoes Biodegradable?

We must confess, this question left us digging for the right answers. The reason is that there are so many materials surrounding the production of shoes. And when you thought you had found a shoe made with a biodegradable material, there’s another part waiting to be discovered made with nonbiodegradable materials.

Though we are tempted to give a general answer that the biodegradability of your shoes will depend on the materials, it was made of, but we know you will need better clarity. So, here we are, breaking everything about the biodegradability of your shoes down for you. So, let’s get to it and be done in a jiffy.

The answers to this question seem to tilt more towards the balance of saying that hardly would you find a completely biodegradable shoe. Here’s a difficult answer to swallow, but there are reasons for it.

If not all, many shoes are made with different kinds of materials. An average shoe could have leather, textile, hardwood, and plastic materials. While all these come together to make some of the best shoes, they pose a big problem for the environment.

If you are to examine each of those materials’ biodegradability level, you will be surprised at how long they take to break down. Many of them would outlive this generation and the one to come. Plastic materials, for instance, take up to 1000 years before they biodegrade. For leather, they take about 40 years.

This shows that your favorite shoes may still be lurking around in the landfill long after you are no longer alive. Not breaking down in real-time is enough trouble for the environment, but is this the end? Obviously not. There are still some environmental effects of shoes that we are yet to examine.

Yearly, roughly 24.2 billion shoe pairs are produced, and a larger percentage of these shoes end up in the landfill. The materials used in producing these shoes too harm the environment. For instance, many of these shoes’ materials leach heavy metals, plasticizers, and many toxic chemicals. Many shoes also have plastic materials with EVA and PVC materials in them and leach them to the environment.

All these materials and chemicals are toxic. When they are leached to the environment, they contaminate the groundwater and can harm aquatic animals. This is not something desirable for all, and we must make efforts to produce environmentally sustainable shoes.

Can You Put Shoes In The Recycle Bin?

It would only be a wise choice to put your shoes in the recycling bin if only you have confirmed two things. One that the shoes are made with a single material. Two that your local recycling station would accept the shoes for recycling.

If you can ensure this, then you are good to go. This is because most shoes have different materials, which require a special process to separate before recycling. Also, many recycling companies won’t accept shoes because of the stress involved.

This is why it is incumbent on you to ensure that you check all boxes before you put your shoes in the recycling bin.

How Do You Dispose Of Worn Shows?

Yearly, we buy many shoes for different reasons. And before we can say, Jack Robinson, they are no longer fashionable or worn out. If this is your situation, and you are looking for where to dispose of your old shoes, we have got you covered. Below, we will take a glance at how you can go about this.

1. Donate Them

Let us guess, you have probably thought about this before. Well, you are not wrong; you can always donate your shoes to charity homes. There, they can give them out or sell them and use the money for other pressing projects. Nonetheless, you should ensure that your shoes are still in wearable condition before you donate them.

2. Gift Them To Loved Ones

You can always gift your shoes to your friends and families who share the same sizes as you. You can also ask your neighbors or colleagues if they need them. This will be considered as a way of sharing the love. However, you should also ensure that the shoes are in wearable condition.

3. Sell Them

Selling worn shoes should not be difficult if your shoes are still in good condition. You can locate a thrift store around you and sell there. You can also sell on eBay or other online merchant platforms.

4. Upcycle Them

Yes, your shoes are not entirely useless. You can upcycle them for different purposes. You can even upcycle to sell or gift to loved ones. If you don’t know how to go about this, you should check the next segment; we have provided a few ideas for you there.

4 Creative Ways to Reuse Old Shoes

We have thought of this question, and we have come to you with fantastic and creative ways to reuse your old shoes. So, relax, grab a  drink if there’s one nearby, and enjoy the ride.

1. Make A Shoe Planter:

There are many things people don’t know about shoes, and one is that many shoes are not airtight. There’s a way that air circulates in it, though at a minimal rate. This makes your shoes a good fit to plant.

If you have a cover shoe, you can put soil in it and add your succulent plant. Water this daily and place it where it can tap the sun; you will be surprised at how fast your plants would grow. That way, you have made yourself a new shoe planter. It saves you some space in your backyard garden.

2. Make A Jewelry Rack

Yes, we know this seems impossible, but with a little creativity and following our instructions, you can make yourself a jewelry rack from your old shoes. So, how do you go about it?

The shoes perfect for this kind of thing is half-covering shoes (the ones that cover your toes and behind your legs). What you would have to do is get a pair and glue them side by side. After this, get some hooks and drive them into the sole of the shoes. Ensure that you do this through the inner sole and not the floor sole. When you have done this, you can hang the shoes on the wall and begin to hand your shoes in them.

You can be more creative and give the shoes some spice. By this, you can add some colors.

3. Make A Pin Cushion

You can make a pin cushion from your old shoes. How to go about this is simple and straightforward; you have to follow the instructions. What would you need for this, though?

Your baby’s old shoes are the best fit for this. You will have to stack the shoes with some foam and clothes. Ensure the foam and clothes in the shoes stick out a bit. Once this is done, you can begin to stick your pin on the shoot out place. This allows you to stick your pins where you can find them when next you need to sew.

4. Make A Coat and Hat Rack

You should be able to guess which kind of shoes will be useful for this kind of thing. If your mind tells you it your favorite high heels, then it is not wrong. With your old heels, you can make yourself a coat and a hat rack.

What you have to do is fix your old heels on the wall, such that the heels are shooting out below. And that’s it. You can hang your coat and hat there without worry that they will fall off.


No one can deny that shoes aren’t something great to have. Shoes have helped humans in a lot of ways and have a special place in our hearts. Despite this, though, our environment means much to us, and we cannot allow anything to reduce it to ruin.

Shoes are capable of contributing to such ruin if we don’t take quick actions. As you have seen above, we have told you ways to ensure that these lovely shoes don’t turn back to pose harm to our environment. It is now left for you to do the needful.


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About Rinkesh

A true environmentalist by heart ❤️. Founded Conserve Energy Future with the sole motto of providing helpful information related to our rapidly depleting environment. Unless you strongly believe in Elon Musk‘s idea of making Mars as another habitable planet, do remember that there really is no 'Planet B' in this whole universe.