March 3, 2003

FM program will bring new life to old sneakers

By Eric Rangus

The back corner of a closet. Under a dirty tarp in the garage. Next to the stoop, caked with mud.

These are the sad, dark places where old shoes go to die.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Through a partnership with a major shoe company, an Emory Recycles program debuting later this month will turn old athletic shoes into new sport surfaces, saving old footwear from their formerly ignoble, depressing ends.
Reuse-a-Shoe is a program cosponsored by Nike and the National Recycling Coalition that, since 1993, has recycled more than 13 million pairs of shoes, turning them into sport surfaces.

Every part of an old shoe is used. Rubber from the soles becomes track surfaces, synthetic soccer and football fields, and weight-room floors; midsole foam becomes material for synthetic basketball and tennis courts; and shoe fabric is made into padding under hardwood basketball courts.

Emory is one of 25 organizations nationally (just a handful of them universities) to take part in the program. In the Southeast, in addition to Emory, North Carolina State and Georgia Tech are participants.

“We thought this was something different—something people hadn’t heard of before,” said Claire Houston, recycling coordinator. Houston is heading up the Reuse-a-Shoe Program with help from students Kelly Ruth and Todd Cramer, as well as recycling supervisor John Scheve. Emory Recycles is part of Facilities Management.

“We’re just trying to create more interest in recycling,” Houston said. “It’s important to reduce the amount of waste and reuse as much as we can. This will keep old shoes out of the landfill by making these other products.”

In January, Nike contacted Emory about partnering in Reuse-a-Shoe. Emory Recycles is one of the few college recycling programs in the nation with the processing capability to handle the needs of Reuse-a-Shoe. By mid-January, the planning for the program was almost complete.

Reuse-a-Shoe officially kicks off March 17. Emory Recycles will have a table set up in the Dobbs Center with collection carts and free coffee. Later that week, on March 22 in Lullwater Park, Emory Recycles will staff the annual Get Fit to Volunteer 5K Run/Walk, sponsored by Volunteer Emory. Entrants who donate a pair of shoes will receive an Emory Recycles mug.

In the weeks prior to the kickoff, Emory Recycles has been plugging the program with aplomb. Houston posted flyers around campus, and a commercial promoting the effort is running on Emory Vision and the student radio station WMRE. Houston said she is reaching out to the nearby community, particularly schools, to promote the program as well. Houston has contacted Employee Council to touch base with staff, and Emory Recycles’ student workers are drumming up support among their peers.

The goal is to collect 9,000 shoes by the end of the semester (the minimum for participants is 5,000). Houston is confident Reuse-a-Shoe can bring in that amount pretty easily. “I think we’ll reach our goal by the end of April,” she said.

The program has a big head start. The Emory men’s and women’s track teams already have donated some of their old shoes, and more than 900 pairs were collected at schools in Forsyth and Gwinnett counties. Collected shoes will be baled and stored at the recycling center on Peavine Creek Road until Nike can pick them up.

Shoe collection bins will be available around campus. Locations include the recycling center, the P.E. Center, a small bin in the Blomeyer Center, and another bin at the CVS in Emory Village.

Only athletic shoes can be recycled, and they cannot contain metal eyelets, steel toes, cleats or spikes. Dress shoes, thongs, sandals or boots cannot be recycled. Shoes cannot be muddy or wet, and they do not need to be tied together. No shoe is too worn out to be recycled.

For more information about Reuse-a-Shoe, contact Houston at
404-712-8921 or






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