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A new system that will recycle shoes

Shoe recycling equipment

I’ve often thought the Brits had a one-up on we Americans when it comes to green technology. Many innovations have started there – and often they don’t make it across the pond for years, if at all. A great example of this innovative thinking is a newly developed system that will fully recycle the materials of old shoes.

Shoe recycling fragments


Last week scientists at Loughborough University in the UK announced they had developed and trial tested “the world’s first comprehensive system for separating and recovering useful materials from old footwear.” This process was designed as part of a 10-year research program of the university’s Innovative Manufacturing and Construction Research Centre.

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Footwear can contain up to forty different types of material, making it extremely difficult to recycle. This new process sorts, shreds and granulates old footwear into tiny fragments that are then sorted again via three methods – cyclonic separation, zigzag separation, and vibrating tables. Ultimately, when the tiniest fragments get to the end of the line, they’re sorted into four material types: leather, foam, rubber and other materials. These can then be used to create a variety of new products such as carpet pads, playground surfacing materials or possibly used as building insulation.

Shoes separated for recycling

The university is now working with “major footwear manufacturers” to develop methods of designing footwear that would be as recycling-friendly as possible. That’s an excellent idea, as is the now real possibility that our beloved old shoes won’t end up in landfills.

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