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September 21, 2023

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University initiates shoe recycling program for October to benefit EcoErek

Instead of sitting in the bottom of closets or dumpsters, ragged shoes, sandals and boots can now be recycled at the University.

The University promoted the program through the Common Reading assignment, “Born To Run” by Christopher McDougall, a book about a tribe in Mexico who excel in running long distances without shoes.

“This is a good fit because people go through a lot of shoes and it’s hard to find a sustainable outlet to get rid of them,” said Nick Hennessy, sustainability coordinator and member of the Common Reading Committee, which created the program.

The program will span the month of October and collection bins can be found in each residence hall, Jerome Library, Union and Sebo Center, Hennessy said.

The collection started with a Fun Run outside the library on Tuesday morning with McDougall, where the first pair of shoes were donated, Hennessy said.

The donated shoes will benefit EcoErek, a philanthropy started by Erek Hansen, who donates shoes and denim to be recycled for playground mulch, rubber turfs and insolation for cars and houses. Hansen, an Ohio resident, started recycling when he was 8 years old and he is now 13.

Hansen said the effort to recycle shoes from the University, as well as other places, lets him know he’s doing a good job.

“It tells me I’m getting my word out,” he said. “It’s good to recycle and others want to take part in it.”

So far this year, Hansen said he has recycled roughly 4,000 pairs of jeans and 2,000 pairs of shoes.

The University has been working with EcoErek for the past three years and Hennessy said it’s impressive to see someone so young accomplish such a task.

“Nothing goes to waste,” he said. “It’s a great way to keep unwanted shoes out of a landfill and recycle them into useful products.”

Amy Foust, an academic adviser for Advising Services, came up with the initial idea for the recycling program in the committee, which coordinates programming around the common reading each fall semester.

“Anytime we can help the environment or people in general, we’re glad to do it,” Foust said. “I hope people take advantage of the opportunity and make a large difference.”

Hennessy sees potential for a large collection because students will be able to go home for Fall Break and bring back shoes to donate.

Some students think the cause alone is good enough to get people motivated.

Junior Sarah Kochert read the book and thinks because TOMS shoes is a popular movement, which donates shoes for every pair bought, that it will be easy for students to support the shoe recycling.

“It makes no sense in manufacturing more rubber for the sole purpose of playgrounds when there is so much [unused rubber] already,” Kochert said.

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