Back-to-school shopping has parents conscious of shoe waste

New research reveals that despite Aussie parents claiming they want to do more to reduce their environmental footprint, shoe waste is still a growing problem

MELBOURNE: 18 JANUARY 2023: As parents hit the shops for the back-to-school frenzy – new research by TreadLightly reveals that nearly three quarters of parents (73%) admit they’d like to do more to reduce their family’s environmental footprint. However, actions speak louder than words with the research revealing parents are hoarding their children’s unworn shoes and throwing old shoes in the bin instead of recycling.

The research shows more than half (57%) of parents say at least three pairs of their children’s shoes reach their end-of-life each year and need to be thrown out, and each child owns around two pairs of shoes that haven’t been worn in six months or more.

When it comes to old shoes that children no longer wear, half of parents (53%) admit to throwing shoes into the rubbish, closely followed by donating them to charity (52%). Only one in 10 (11%) of parents have dropped these shoes off for recycling.

Parents who throw their children’s old shoes in the bin are blaming their lack of recycling on the fact thatthey didn’t know shoes could be recycled (53%), they don’t know where to recycle (44%), they’re not interested (7%), they keep forgetting to recycle their shoes (5%), or they don’t have time (4%). But of those parents that do throw their children’s shoes in the rubbish 59% per cent admit to feeling wasteful and/or guilty about doing so.

The research was conducted by 10 THOUSAND FEET and commissioned by TreadLightly – a new industry-led national recycling initiative powered by the Australian Sporting Goods Association (ASGA) and recycler Save Our Soles (SOS) that takes unwanted sport and active lifestyle footwear and turns them into new products like anti-fatigue mats, retail flooring and sporting surfaces. 

“As parents we purchase so many shoes each year that are either worn out or are grown out of in no time at all. Our research quantifies the number of children’s shoes that are collecting dust or end up in the rubbish because parents don’t know what else to do with them,” said Shaun Bajada, Executive Director, Australian Sporting Goods Association.

“We’re reminding parents in the back-to-school rush that, if you are buying shoes for the new school year, don’t forget to recycle your old shoes. Give them new life as useful products instead of throwing them in the bin and contributing to landfill,” added Bajada.

The TreadLightly survey also showed that:

25 million sports shoes[1] are imported into Australia each year, and with shoe components taking over 1000 years to breakdown – this is a significant environmental concern and a national problem that needs attention.

TreadLightly is supported by the Federal Government to recycle more than one million pairs of sporting and athletic lifestyle shoes by June 2023.

Since the program first started in June 2021, more than 600,000 pairs of shoes – stretching to over 360km from Sydney to Canberra! – have been responsibly recycled in Australia by SOS and turned into crumb to then be developed into new products.

TreadLightly works closely with Australia’s key sporting and active lifestyle brands including Shoes & Sox, adidas, The Athletes Foot, Nike, New Balance, Platypus, SportsPower and Rebel Sport. For a full list of participating brands visit  

About Tread Lightly

TreadLightly is a national recycling initiative that provides the inspiration and the means to address the sporting and active lifestyle industry’s environmental footprint by uniting and empowering brands, retailers and consumers to give preloved footwear a new life.

Powered by leading industry body the Australian Sporting Goods Association (ASGA) and Australia’s premier footwear recycler Save Our Soles (SOS), TreadLightly is supported by the Federal Government to recycle more than one million pairs of shoes by June 2023, saving hundreds of tonnes from local landfill. Australians can recycle their preloved footwear at participating retailers for them to be recycled responsibly and given new, meaningful life as retail and gym flooring and playgrounds around Australia.

About the research

The data for the research study was obtained via an online panel of Australian consumers with quotas for state. Respondents are 18+ with dependent children at home between the ages of 1 to 17. The final sample was then weighted according to ABS figures for state (families by state and territory and age of dependent children). The survey was in field between 28th October and 15th November 2022. The final sample was 752.

10 THOUSAND FEET is an Australian market research agency that provides a full suite of action driven research services. With over 20 years of experience working with industry bodies and consumer brands, 10 THOUSAND FEET is the leading research agency within the sporting goods space. See

[1] ASGA member research data. Accessed on 29.06.2020

For any images, further information or to set up interviews with a brand representative, please contact Tara Ballard (contact details: 0436 330 267

About ASGA

The Australian Sporting Goods Association was formed in 1981 to act as the “peak body” representing a broad spectrum of sporting and active lifestyle goods industry participants, including brands, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers.

ASGA is a leading industry voice on issues impacting the health, trade, taxation, regulation, market research, environmental and sustainability areas of the sporting and active lifestyle industries. It aims to foster the market growth, provide services, and advocate for increased participation in sport and physical activity. ASGA is a leading advocate in the industry and is at the forefront of debate and leads industry opinion.

About Save Our Soles

As Recycling Process Lead, Save Our Soles (SOS) manage all resource reclamation activities, from extraction to end product development. Save Our Soles is committed to ensuring that all Shoes that are imported into Australia and New Zealand are recycled and used in this market. Australia imports approximately 100 million pairs into Australia and New Zealand every year and we have to start reusing this valuable product rather than throwing them into landfill.

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