A new report by Reuters revealed this week that a major shoe recycling program – launched by US petrochemical company Dow in partnership with the Singapore government – is actually reselling the shoes it collects from donation bins to vendors in remote regions.
Reuters put Dow’s claims of recycling the rubber soles of used and donated sneakers and using them to construct athletic tracks and soft playground surfaces to the test by placing tracking devices in the soles of 11 pairs of shoes and placing them in the program’s donation boxes. According to the report, none of the 11 pairs ended up being recycled into tracks or playgrounds, but rather made their way to remote parts of Indonesia and other underdeveloped countries, being resold by vendors there.
The shoes got to those vendors via a Singaporian second hand goods export company called Yok Impex Pte Ltd. The company ended up with ten of the eleven pairs of shoes placed in various donation bins in Singapore, and resold them to vendors in bazaars and markets in Indonesia.
Reuters brought its findings to Dow, which launched its own investigation into the matter, and responded by cutting Yok Impex from its list of partners. Yok Impex confirmed it will no longer work with Dow after its current contract expires. “The project partners do not condone any unauthorized removal or export of shoes collected through this program and remain committed to safeguarding the integrity of the collection and recycle process,” Dow said in a statement.
The tenth pair of shoes, the only one that did not end up at Yok Impex, is still tracking from its donation bin location in a Singapore neighborhood, indicating it might never have been picked up.
ARTICLE: LAURA SPIVAK
MANAGING EDITOR: LUKE MOCHERMAN
PHOTO CREDIT: REUTERS
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