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These Brands Want Your Used, Dirty Sneakers Back

Footwear brands are introducing creative initiatives to advance the circular economy by recycling worn wares and turning them back into new product instead of clogging up the waste stream.

Thousand Fell, the recyclable footwear brand rethinking sustainable practices, is teaming up with both UPS and TerraCycle to launch an innovative sneaker recycling program.

It marks a two-year-long partnership between Thousand Fell and TerraCycle, which have been working to create at-scale recycling solutions for footwear. The nationwide program offers customers an easy and accessible way to recycle their sneakers through the expansive network of The UPS Store locations and UPS authorized partners, such as Staples.

Customers can now bring their prepaid, labeled packages containing their sneakers to any of these 14,400 locations to be shipped directly back to TerraCycle for recycling, and in exchange, Thousand Fell will issue a credit of $20 toward a future purchase.

Since its launch last year, Thousand Fell tasked itself with getting product back from customers, while responsibly maintaining carbon footprint and cost and breaking down that product so that the materials could be reused in new sneakers. With TerraCycle and UPS as collaborators, Thousand Fell is working toward those goals and empowering customers to join them in building a better, zero-waste future, while affording full visibility and the ability to track their footwear’s life cycle.

Now, with access to support and scale of UPS and TerraCycle, Thousand Fell is doubling down on its mission to never send another sneaker to landfill and securing its foothold as a pioneer in the circular fashion economy.

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UPS will run all shipping for Thousand Fell’s sneaker recycling program, lending its resources to build and manage Thousand Fell’s front-end logistics and fulfillment. Thousand Fell is using UPS’s reverse logistics program for recycling returns and freight that they can build and scale together over time, while keeping their carbon footprint as low as possible, an important step toward powering the circular economy.

Thousand Fell has worked with Ware2Go, a UPS company providing on-demand warehousing and fulfillment, to streamline the logistics process with UPS from warehousing and delivery at the beginning of the product/customer path to purchase through returns and recycling at the end of the customer journey.

TerraCycle, a specialist in recycling the unrecyclable, with programs in over 20 countries, will handle the receiving, storage and sustainable recycling of the footwear. TerraCycle and Thousand Fell are also working on a closed loop solution where old sneakers will be reintegrated into the supply chain to make new sneakers.

Thousand Fell will enable customers to create an account and register their sneakers once received. This will allow customers to initiate free recycling when they’re ready, either at one of the in-person drop off locations or by shipping them back directly to TerraCycle. Customers will also be able to see their entire purchase history and track the personal carbon footprint for their sneakers through ThousandFell.com.

Footwear brands are advancing the circular economy by recycling old shoes and turning them back into new product.
Vivobarefoot in production.

Meanwhile, barefoot footwear company Vivobarefoot has introduced what it’s billing as the world’s first global “shoe amnesty.” Processed through its recently announced reconditioning, re-commerce platform, ReVivo, the shoe amnesty program asks new and returning customers to wear their Vivobarefoot footwear in, wear it out, and then to send it back.

In July, Vivobarefoot launched ReVivo as part of its quest to change how footwear is made and consumed. As a recommerce platform that revives, reconditions and resells worn and returned footwear from the brand, ReVivo also recycles any materials not used in the repair process.

These efforts are a bid to keep Vivobarefoot footwear on feet longer and help stop the number of shoes ending up in landfill each year. Now with shoe amnesty, those who return their footwear can get 20 percent off of a new pair of Vivobarefoot shoes or have a donation made on behalf to the LiveBarefoot Foundation, an in-house incubation that pioneers regeneration solutions for environmental and social problems.

“The shoe industry has historically put short-term performance and fashion before foot health and the wellbeing of our planet,” Galahad Clark, founder of Vivobarefoot, said. “Our ambition this year has been for ReVivo to lead the way, offering a model with real-world solutions that the industry can follow. Now with shoe amnesty, we’re opening the door for new customers to participate in a program that benefits the environment in an accessible way. ReVivo and shoe amnesty is just the start. As part of our wider regenerative journey, Vivobarefoot will also be launching 3D footwear, opening up radical transparency in our supply chain and redesigning all of our current footwear to allow us to reduce all suppliers and materials that make our products.”