Last week, I went to buy a new pair of running shoes, since my old pair of shoes hit its fourth year. General guidelines for running shoes claim that soles are usually used up after running 150-200 mils, depending on different factors, such as the runner’s weight, the running style and the running terrain. Anyhow, I do not really know how many Scandinavian miles I was running during the last years, but for sure they were more than 200. Since the inner linings started to dissolve (I guess that every runner understands the difficulty to let go of an old pair well worn in pair of running shoes), I started to research various brands and their products. Despite the optimal fit for a shoe, I learned quite a lot about how some brands take responsibility for their used products and encourage customers to reduce the footprint of a shoe. Some brands even argue how important it is to avoid throwing old shoes into common household refuse (see Adidas, Nike, etc.).
Equipped with this knowledge, I made my way to Löplabbet, Swedens’ specialist for running shoes. It seemed that the staff knew quite a lot about the optimal fit of a running shoe, but they had literally no idea what to do about the old pairs of shoes in a “sustainable or responsible” matter. After a long discussion and my obvious reluctance to leave my old shoes behind, so that they can throw them away, we agreed that the most useful action would be to donate my old pair to charity.
Even though I am quite happy with my new pair of shoes, I was quite frustrated about the store’s attitude towards the possible actions for a prolonging the end of the product’s life. I experienced how difficult it can be to make a conscious choice as a consumer and that there are quite some information obstacles that have to be overcome. I decided to ask the management of the chain for a statement, and this is the answer that I received promptly:
“Thanks for your e-mail. Of course we’re aware of the environment as well as you. Unfortunately there’re no good way of taking care of old shoes. No brand take care of them and if we collect old shoes we don’t know how to proceed. We’ve asked Ragnsells (largest garbage company) how to do, but they told only to put them in the container for ”normal” garbage. Therefore, our best advice is to give your shoes away to any collector of products for humanity care. Either to an human organization for shipment abroad or to a place where refugees can have them.“
Person from the Management Team
I conclude from their statement that they are indeed aware of the environmental problem of their core product. Yet, they do not want to assume responsibility for the waste of their products. And it seems that neither does the garbage company? Maybe it is not profitable enough to take care of this issue? The take-back schemes which are advocated at some of the brands’ websites seem to grasp only a small part of their used shoes.
I am happy to give away my old pair of shoes to charity. But for sure, I am planning to investigate into depth and ask Ragnsells what main issues relate to the waste of running shoes.
Written by: Tina Sendlhofer, PhD student at Misum