But in 2022, journalists from the news agency tracked several pairs of donated shoes and discovered they weren’t being recycled; they were instead being resold.
Dow’s program was simple: it would place donation bins all across Singapore to receive used shoes, then transport them to a recycling facility. The soles would be removed, ground up, and the rubber would be used to create durable surfaces for athletic facilities in Singapore, including tracks, playgrounds, and sports fields.
However, according to Reuters, Dow has lied about its recycling efforts in the past. In 2021, the company was found to be burning plastic waste that it said was being recycled into clean fuel, and a project to recycle plastic waste from the Ganges river shut down because of failing equipment.
So journalists from Reuters decided to test the new recycling program by placing hidden trackers in several pairs of shoes and donating them through Dow.
What they found was that the sneakers were not being sent to recycling plants. Instead, the donations were picked up by secondhand clothing exporter, Yok Impex Pte Ltd, and sent to Indonesia, where they were resold.
Reuters journalists were able to buy back several pairs — even though importing secondhand clothing to Indonesia has been illegal since 2015 due to sanitation concerns.
When Reuters contacted Dow about the issue, Dow said Yok Impex would be removed from the project. However, there is no clear reason for a secondhand goods exporter to have been a partner on the project in the first place.
“Dow promised to pick up these shoes and grind them into materials and make them into playgrounds, and instead, they’re being found all over another country. They literally cannot be believed,” Jan Dell, founder of the nonprofit The Last Beach Cleanup, told Reuters.
Why does it matter?
For buyers trying to live a green lifestyle, and for donators trying to be responsible with their used belongings, greenwashing can seriously undermine their efforts and take away their ability to make informed choices.
What can you do?
If you’re looking for an actual eco-friendly recycling program for your used shoes, try GotSneakers, which will pay you for every pair and also gives cleaned-up, refurbished shoes to people in need.
It also sends some pairs to SneakerCycle, an online thrift store just for shoes that keeps them out of landfills.
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