The Dutch built the world’s first shoe recycling machine
“At first we would take the shoes apart by hand and put the materials in the microwave or in a pot on the stove,” says Danny Pormes of Fastfeetgrind when he started trying to recycle shoes five years ago. Nowadays there is a machine that processes 2,500 shoes per hour.
The industry produces around 70 million shoes every day. And for every pair sold, another pair is discarded. Since shoes are often made of many different materials, recycling is difficult. This is why old shoes are often shipped to Africa, Asia or Eastern Europe, where they end up in landfills or incinerators. Pormes and his partners believed it was a missed opportunity.
Shoe recycling machine
Former Navy Pormes owns a running store and supplies sports shoes to the Dutch Ministry of Defense. Five years ago, the ministry asked if it was possible to recycle the shoes. Pormes and his compatriot David Uijtewaal got stuck in the problem and never let it down. And they succeeded. Fastfeetgrinded built the world’s very first shoe recycling machine, also known as SRM: the Shoe Recyle Machine. “The SRM can process 2,500 shoes an hour,” an enthusiastic Pormes tells us over the phone. “The shoe fits on one side of the machine and on the other side, we separate it into three different materials: foam, rubber and textile. These come in the form of granules or wire.
Subscribe to IO on Telegram!
Asics, Decathlon and Bever
How exactly does the device work? “It’s the blacksmith’s secret,” laughs Pormes. “The system is patented and we want to develop it ourselves. The machine has now caught the attention of a wide range of well-known sports brands such as Asics, Decathlon and Bever. As a society, we need to halve our use of raw materials by 2030. As a result, Pormes expects the demand for recycled materials to continue to increase.
Growth at home and abroad
Not only is the demand for the recyclate produced by SRM increasing. “We now receive used shoes from all over the Netherlands in our office in Susteren,” explains Pormes. “It’s too much to process and we’re running out of space. So this week we decided to move. We are going to quintuple on the new Wieringerwerf site. Plans for a second factory in the Netherlands are now in place. Germany is also on the Fastfeetgrined program.
It will be some time before consumers can actually buy the first circular shoe. “But it is quite possible,” assures Pormes. “There’s a pair here on my desk. We don’t want to build a brand, we use the pair to show the industry that it is doable. Because the shoe is made from a mix of colorful materials, the end result so far is mostly brown. “If we added paint, the shoe would obviously no longer be 100% circular. Fortunately, brown will likely come back into fashion on its own.
Also interesting: Lionel Messi’s new sneakers come out of the recycling bin
This article is courtesy of ChangeInc, with whom Innovation Origins has an editorial partnership.