Back-to-school shopping has parents conscious of shoe waste­­­­ 

Back-to-school shopping has parents conscious of shoe waste­­­­ 

New research reveals that despite Aussie parents claiming they want to do more to reduce their environmental footprint, shoe waste is still a growing problem 

As parents hit the shops for the back-to-school frenzy – new research by TreadLightly reveals that nearly three quarters of parents (73%) admit they’d like to do more to reduce their family’s environmental footprint. However, actions speak louder than words with the research revealing parents are hoarding their children’s unworn shoes and throwing old shoes in the bin instead of recycling.    

The research shows more than half (57%) of parents say at least three pairs of their children’s shoes reach their end-of-life each year and need to be thrown out, and each child owns around two pairs of shoes that haven’t been worn in six months or more.  

When it comes to old shoes that children no longer wear, half of parents (53%) admit to throwing shoes into the rubbish, closely followed by donating them to charity (52%). Only one in 10 (11%) of parents have dropped these shoes off for recycling. 

Parents who throw their children’s old shoes in the bin are blaming their lack of recycling on the fact that they didn’t know shoes could be recycled (53%), they don’t know where to recycle (44%), they’re not interested (7%), they keep forgetting to recycle their shoes (5%), or they don’t have time (4%). But of those parents that do throw their children’s shoes in the rubbish 59% per cent admit to feeling wasteful and/or guilty about doing so.  

The research was conducted by 10 THOUSAND FEET and commissioned by TreadLightly – a new industry-led national recycling initiative powered by the Australian Sporting Goods Association (ASGA) and recycler Save Our Soles (SOS) that takes unwanted sport and active lifestyle footwear and turns them into new products like anti-fatigue mats, retail flooring and sporting surfaces.   

“As parents we purchase so many shoes each year that are either worn out or are grown out of in no time at all. Our research quantifies the number of children’s shoes that are collecting dust or end up in the rubbish because parents don’t know what else to do with them,” said Shaun Bajada, Executive Director, Australian Sporting Goods Association. 

“We’re reminding parents in the back-to-school rush that, if you are buying shoes for the new school year, don’t forget to recycle your old shoes. Give them new life as useful products instead of throwing them in the bin and contributing to landfill,” added Bajada.  

The TreadLightly survey also showed that:  

  • In an average year, families with children under 18 spend a total of nearly $500 on children’s shoes. This includes school shoes ($157), everyday shoes ($184), and specialty shoes including ballet, football, netball etc. ($116).  
  • When it comes to parents themselves, 45% of parents have two or more pairs of shoes that reach the end of their life each year and need to be thrown out: 
    • Female parents have a slightly higher number of shoes compared with males. 
    • Younger parents have more shoes that need to be thrown out compared with older parents. 
    • Parents from NSW have a higher number of shoes that need to be thrown out compared with VIC, QLD and WA. 

25 million sports shoes[1] are imported into Australia each year, and with shoe components taking over 1000 years to breakdown – this is a significant environmental concern and a national problem that needs attention.  

TreadLightly is supported by the Federal Government to recycle more than one million pairs of sporting and athletic lifestyle shoes by June 2023. 

Since the program first started in June 2021, more than 600,000 pairs of shoes – stretching to over 360km from Sydney to Canberra! – have been responsibly recycled in Australia by SOS and turned into crumb to then be developed into new products.  

TreadLightly works closely with Australia’s key sporting and active lifestyle brands including Shoes & Sox, adidas, The Athletes Foot, Nike, New Balance, Platypus, SportsPower and Rebel Sport. For a full list of participating brands visit