Save our soles: Australian footwear recycling initiative steps up

Robert Stockdill

Robert Stockdill

Australia’s government has invested in an industry take-back program where consumers can return tired, unwanted sports shoes for recycling. 

Used sneakers and sports shoes are being repurposed into gym mats, retail flooring, and playground surfaces under the ASGA Save Our Soles Recycling Initiative, an industry-funded takeback program recovering and recycling shoes.

Trialled in Victoria in 2019, the program is now being expanded nationwide after the collection of more than 100,000 pairs of shoes, proving its success.

Major sporting goods brands including Nike, Adidas, Asics, New Balance, Mizuno, and Converse, along with retailers Globe, JD Sports, Super Retail Group, SportsPower, Frankie4, Brand Collective, and Accent Group, have all signed up to the program which aims to close the loop in the Australian footwear product life cycle chain.

Now the Australian Government’s National Product Stewardship Investment Fund (NPSIF) has invested a further A$4 million (US$2.94 million) into the program to create greater capacity in the recycling sector. 

“We want to see more brands taking greater responsibility for reducing the environmental impacts of their products,” said environment minister Sussan Ley, describing the Save Our Soles initiative as “a slam dunk for the government”.  

“We think that our product stewardship programs are really ace, and that is why we have now funded 19 projects to the tune of $14.6 million and established the Product Stewardship Centre of Excellence,” said Ley.

ASGA executive director, Shaun Bajada said the program has resulted in the sporting goods and active lifestyle industry working together with government and environmental groups to tackle the problem of sports shoe waste.

“Our industry is committed to building a long-term sustainable footwear recycling solution that will benefit our planet and the community. I am incredibly proud of our members who have helped ASGA create a truly circular footwear recycling platform,” said Bajada. 

The program aims to reduce the volume of footwear sent to landfills by developing a scalable model for sports shoe recycling Australia-wide.

“This is a landmark day for the Australian Sporting Goods Industry and its stakeholders, as we are now collectively able to accelerate investment towards a more environmentally sustainable future, a critical area of ASGA’s strategic focus,” said ASGA president, Andrew Reed.  

Consumers can drop off preloved shoes including athletic lifestyle shoes, sneakers, football boots, hiking boots, golf shoes, and thongs to ASGA retail partners. 

The Australian Sporting Goods Association was formed in 1981 to represent sporting and active lifestyle goods industry participants, including brands, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers.

Save Our Soles manages the recovery of resources and is committed to ensuring all shoes imported into Australia and New Zealand are recycled and used in this market. With imports into the two countries topping 100 million pairs annually, the organisation is focused on reusing used shoes rather than allowing them to be tossed into landfills.

  • Main image credit: @south_nostalghia via Twenty20.
Robert Stockdill

Robert Stockdill

Robert Stockdill is a content writer with more than 30 years of experience in five countries. His style has built upon award-winning success in news and features in the print media to leadership in digital communication, spanning news websites, social media, magazines, brochures, and contributing to books. Recognising the devastating impact of consumer behaviour on the planet and wanting to help make a difference Robert launched Viable.Earth as a platform to celebrate positive contributions by brands, companies and individuals towards reducing environmental impact and improve sustainability – especially in the fields of fashion, beauty, food, lifestyle, and transportation.


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