How Sneaker Impact is Sustainably Creating Opportunity for Entrepreneurs

Global warming is a serious problem and sustainability isn’t just a trendy term that brands and companies have been jumping on but it’s truly a way to keep our planet liveable for generations to come. Brands like Nike, adidas, and New Balance have been using different ways to reuse and repurpose materials but that’s only one part of the battle.

So we spoke to Sneaker Impact, a social enterprise that focuses on recycling your reusable sneakers and keeping them out of landfills where billions of tons are destroyed each year through processes that harm our environment. Instead, the recycled goods are provided to small markets in developing countries to assist those communities in continual economic growth.

NK: How did Sneaker Impact come to be? What motivated or kickstarted the idea to bring a change in how we dispose of used sneakers?

My family has been in the recycling industry since 1967 and Sneaker Impact was founded based on 30 years of my own personal experience in the textile recycling industry. Throughout my time working in the recycling business, sneakers have always been the most requested item by our clients. So when I wanted to branch out and start a sneaker-specific recycling company, I did a lot of research not only on why there’s such a strong demand for sneakers in less developed countries but also about what people end up doing with their used sneakers.

68% of Americans do not recycle anything, let alone their sneakers. Not because they don’t want to, but because oftentimes they don’t know how, or can’t find an easy and efficient way to.  This is where we’re really proud of the work we do at Sneaker Impact. Our mission is to help spread awareness and encourage more Americans to recycle. Currently, 300 million pairs of used shoes and sneakers end up in landfills every year, and some of those sneakers can take up to 1000 years to decompose!

At Sneaker Impact we’re offering everyone an opportunity to very easily recycle their used sneakers, rerouting them from landfills to micro-business merchants in developing countries. These merchants are then able to sell your used sneakers at an affordable price point to someone who wouldn’t have been able to afford or find them otherwise. These sneakers are vehicles for many people in these countries. It’s their transportation to and from work or school. 

The micro-businesses we work with oftentimes refurbish the sneakers if needed as well. Washing, deodorizing, painting, re-lacing, etc. Which in turn creates more jobs for people who may not be able to find one otherwise.

So again, we’re really proud of the ripple effect that our effort creates.

NK: What countries are these sneakers going to? And how many sneakers are you guys shipping over?

We’re shipping around half a million pairs of sneakers and shoes every month to countries such as Haiti, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Bolivia, Chile, Ghana, Thailand, Kurdistan, Peru, and Nicaragua, just to name a few.

NK: Have you guys partnered with any stores or brands to get the word out on Sneaker Impact?

Sneaker Impact partners with schools, gyms/health clubs, retailers, and like-minded individuals all over the country.  We are currently in touch with a number of major brands to partner with and support their corporate sustainability efforts. And we’re constantly working to spread the message by having retailers place Sneaker Impact bins in their stores.

NK: How can we do our part to support and help Sneaker Impact?

First and foremost, we’d like to encourage everyone to do their part in an effort to combat climate change. Whether that means recycling your used sneakers with us, ditching plastic bottles for reusable bottles, or reducing your energy consumption. We all have a part to play and need to work together.

To help Sneaker Impact specifically, we just want to continue spreading our message and try to reach as many people as we can. We want people to know that their sneakers don’t have to end up in a landfill when they can be recycled and reused by someone who needs them. You can recycle your sneakers with Sneaker Impact in 1 of 2 ways. 

  1. Go to www.sneakerimpact.com click recycle, and print a prepaid shipping label, at no cost to you. From there you just package them up and send them off. 
  2. Go to www.sneakerimpact.com, and find a local drop box. If you don’t have a local drop box, ask and encourage your local gym, sneaker retailer, school, etc., to get one. All they have to do is e-mail maggie@sneakerimpact.com to request a bin. Our bins are also provided at no cost, and come with a prepaid shipping label.

Lastly, please follow our Instagram account: @sneaker.impact, and share our story with your friends and family.

For those based in Miami, Sneaker Impact has teamed up with the Miami Sneaker Convention and for those who bring two pairs of used sneakers or more to donate, free admission will be given. Check out the website here and the flyer below for more information.

Much thanks to Moe, Maggie, and Frankie for taking time out of their busy schedules to sit down with Nice Kicks.

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