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Recycling Shoes Made Possible by UK Scientists

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shoe-recycling-1-537x402You would think that with all the available technology and long-established methods for recycling, old shoes would be one of the first on the list to be turned into something new and useful.

But you would be wrong. Shoes have proven to be quite tough when it comes to their recycling, mainly because of the more than 40 different materials used in the making of a pair.

Scientists from Loughborough University’s Innovative Manufacturing and Construction Research Centre (IMCRC), however, came up with a revolutionary method, which allows successful separation of leather, rubber and other material from our old shoes.

The study was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and has been going for more than 10 years, so the method really must be thorough and comprehensive. It begins by manual pre-sorting of shoes according to their types, let’s say boots, trainers, etc. Once this is done, the shoes are shredded and turned into 3-4mm granules. These granules are then sorted according to to the materials they are made of, this being leather, rubber, foams or other, and again separated according to size and weight.

The process is very innovative and opens up so many doors for new research and industries, and brings enormous benefits to the environment. Only if you consider that 95% of the shoes produced per year currently end up in landfills, you can imagine how needed it is to find a way to recycle them and instead of pollution, we end up with perfectly sorted materials ready to be used again.

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