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Old shoes get new life through SLU recycling project

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CANTON — Instead of tossing those used sneakers and dress shoes into the trash, St. Lawrence University’s athletic department wants people to donate their gently used footwear to a new recycling project that continues through Jan. 31.

The university is participating in ShoeBox Recycling, an international project that already has collected more than 247,300 pairs of gently used athletic shoes and other footwear, including cleats, cowboy boots, dress shoes, flats, heels and work boots.

The footwear is being collected in tall cardboard boxes placed at sites around campus, including the fitness center and the student center. From there it will be transported by FedEx to the ShoeBox Recycling warehouse in Fairless Hills, Pa.

“They obviously don’t have to be perfect, but they have to be reusable. They shouldn’t be ripped or have holes,” said Ethan R. Townsend, SLU’s Nordic ski coach and chairman of the athletic department’s Sustainability Committee.

Eventually, the refurbished footwear is sold at affordable prices in the United States as well as high-poverty countries around the world including Zimbabwe, Haiti, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guatamala, Chile, Kenya, India, Bolivia, Jordan, Poland and the Phillippines.

“I think a lot end up in Africa,” Mr. Townsend said “They’re not given away. They’re distributed to small-time markets.”

ShoeBox Recycling is a for-profit company that has relationships with buyers and vendors around the world. The buyers connect with local vendors who meet them at ports. People are hired to pick up the shoes at the port, to clean and shine the shoes to make them look new, then sell them where affordable footwear is needed.

“This is a program that helps create jobs. It creates a market for shoes,” Mr. Townsend said.

ShoeBox Recycling pays for shipping and will pay the SLU athletic department 50 cents for every pound of footwear it collects. That money will be donated to the Canton Church & Community Program, which operates a food pantry and assists local families with financial needs. Margaret F. Streit, director of SLU’s athletic department, aid the project helps local families as well as people in other parts of the world.

More information about ShoeBox Recycling can be found at www.shoeboxrecycling.com.

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