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21 July 2006 PR 06/90

These recyclable boots are made for walking.... and more walking…

A project to recycle old shoes for making new footwear – or even for generating energy – is being spearheaded by Loughborough University.

Researchers at Loughborough are looking at ways of recycling some of the 17 billion pairs of shoes that are made every year worldwide.

Of these, most end up in landfill sites after just one or two years.

Loughborough is leading the research on shoe recycling as part of a European consortium of 54 organisations – including businesses, technology providers, research and development institutes, and other Universities.

Solutions include reintroducing old shoes back into the market by repairing and polishing them; recovering sole and upper materials to put into new shoes; re-using parts of the shoe to make other products; or utilising discarded shoes to generate energy or other useful by-products.

Dr Shahin Rahimifard, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Manufacturing and Re-Use/Recycling Technologies (SMART) at Loughborough University, said: “At the moment, a very limited number of sports trainers are being recycled which means that tonnes of perfectly good material is sent to landfill every year. The problem is made worse by current trends in fashion shoes that are often discarded after just one season.

“Our work is looking at the activities and infrastructure needed to collect used shoes as well as the technology required to recycle them.”

As part of the overall project, researchers want to develop radical new manufacturing processes, materials, products and services to increase the competitiveness of the European footwear sector – and to make shoe recycling easier.


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Notes to editors

Loughborough has an established reputation for excellence in teaching and research, strong links with industry, and unrivalled sporting achievement. Assessments of teaching quality by the Quality Assurance Agency place it in the top flight of UK universities; the National Student Survey ranked Loughborough equal first among full-time students; and industry highlights the University in its top five for graduate recruitment. Around 40% of Loughborough’s income is for research, and 60% for teaching. The University has been awarded five Queen's Anniversary Prizes: for its collaboration with aerospace and automotive companies such as BAE Systems, Ford and Rolls Royce; for its work in developing countries; for pioneering research in optical engineering; for its world-leading role in sports research, education and development; and for its outstanding work in evaluating and helping to develop social policy-related programmes.

In 2006 Loughborough celebrates the 40th anniversary of its University Charter, awarded on 19 April 1966 in recognition of the excellence achieved by Loughborough College of Advanced Technology and its predecessor Colleges. Loughborough University of Technology was renamed Loughborough University in 1996.

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