Giving a new life to old school shoes

As the new school year approaches, many Australian families will be making the familiar trip to the shoe shop.

But rather than chucking away old pairs of school shoes, sneakers and boots, parents are being urged to reuse or recycle to reduce the growing pile of waste from unwanted footwear.

Australian Sporting Goods Association executive director Shaun Bajada said the components that went into shoes took time and energy to create.

"But when we finish, having them in the ground for 1000 years really isn't the way to go," he told AAP.

Research commissioned by the association found 73 per cent of parents want to reduce their environmental footprint, but more than half admitted to throwing away old shoes.

Only one in 10 have dropped off old shoes for recycling.

"It all comes down to education," Mr Bajada said. "It comes down to realising what you can and can't recycle."

To combat shoe waste, the association and recycled flooring manufacturer Save Our Soles created a national shoe recycling initiative, TreadLightly, which has received federal government funding.

Like-minded sportswear companies joined the program, giving consumers the chance to drop off their old shoes at collection boxes around the country.

The shoes get transferred to recycling facilities in Victoria and Queensland, where they are broken down and turned into products like anti-fatigue mats, retail flooring and sporting surfaces.

In the 18 months since TreadLightly started, more than 600,000 pairs of unwanted shoes have been collected and given a new life.

"We started off with sport shoes and expanded into school shoes and work boots," Mr Bajada said.

"The program is ever-growing and ever-changing. We were collecting around 1000 kilos a month and now we're collecting between 15,000 to 19,000 kilos per month."

TreadLightly will keep all of its recycling in Australia because it shouldn't be left to other countries to manage our shoe waste problem, Mr Bajada said.

"We deal with everything in Australia, unless a shoe manufacturer said we would like to recreate shoes out of the by-product," he said.

A number of major retailers have TreadLightly collection boxes in their shops. A full list of sites available at