Investigative report exposes shoe recycling campaign, project partners apologize
Updated: Mar 1
Photo: Active SG
A recent Reuters investigation has put a shoe recycling program launched by Sport Singapore and Dow Inc, under scrutiny. The campaign, launched in 2022, fell short of its original goals - to recycle donated shoes into infrastructure materials for sports facilities such as running tracks, playgrounds and fitness corners, as well as potential materials fillers or gym mats and protection paddings. None of the 11 pairs of shoes donated by Reuters were used for their intended purpose, instead ending up in second-hand shops across Indonesia.
Reuters journalists used trackers to trace the movement of the shoes. The shoes moved from the donation bins to the facility of second-hand goods exporter, Yok Impex Pte Ltd, before eventually being recovered from crowded bazaars in Jakarta and Batam. Upon the conclusion of the investigation, a decision was made to remove Yok Impex from the project, effective March 1.
Photo: Dow Inc
This discovery raises concerns about the credibility of recycling assertions by chemical corporations like Dow, who are accused of "greenwashing" - making false or exaggerated claims about their recycling efforts. This is not the first time Dow Inc. has faced controversy, with a program in Idaho found to be burning plastic waste to fuel a cement factory and a Dow-supported initiative in India aimed at collecting plastic debris from the Ganges river being shut down due to equipment malfunctions.
Insidiously, the investigation has shed light on the problem of illegal second-hand clothing flooding into Indonesia, which poses a public health risk and exacerbates the country's waste crisis. Since much of this second-hand merchandise is in such poor condition that vendors cannot resell it, it either gets burned in open dumps or dumped in rivers or landfills. This is a growing concern for Indonesia, adding to the already mounting garbage problem.
The most recent development in this controversy involves the partners of the shoe recycling programme, Alba-WH, BT sports and Decathlon, issuing a public apology. They confirmed that there had been a "lapse" in the program's processing chain when the items reached Yok Impex's facility.