Zero Waste Initiatives

By Cynthia Blayer
Linewaiters' Gazette 2/16/2006

I was recently asked if old sneakers can be recycled. The answer is
yes, they can. Nike, a company with a checkered past in terms of
certain labor practices, is doing the right thing by taking back its
products at the end of their useful lifespan and reusing the
materials. Their program, Reuse-a-Shoe, accepts all brands of old
sneakers (not just Nike). The sneakers are ground up and the raw
materials are divided into three categories. Rubber from the outsoles
is used to make soccer, football and baseball fields as well as
weight room flooring. Foam from the midsole is used for synthetic
basketball and tennis courts, in addition to playground surface
tiles. The fabric from the shoe uppers is used for padding under
hardwood basketball floors. It takes approximately 3,000 sneakers to
make a basketball court and 100,000 sneakers to make a running track.

The Nike Reuse-a-Shoe program is an example of a zero-waste
initiative. Zero waste is a philosophy and a design principle seeking
to eliminate waste and the need to landfill or incinerate trash. Zero
waste goes beyond recycling as we know it today, partly because it
encompasses a much wider range of materials than are currently
considered recyclable. Items that would ordinarily end up in
landfills or incinerators are broken down into component materials
that are reused to make new products. This reduces the need to strip
the earth of virgin resources such as timber and metals, as well as
the ever-increasing need to find space for landfills.

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