Can Vans be recycled?

Worldwide, we’re consuming fashion at an alarming rate and this is having a huge impact on the environment, with the average pair of shoes taking over 50 years to fully decompose when sent to landfill. In response, recycling is firmly on the minds of many of us and you might be looking at ways you can do your bit.

So, can Vans be recycled?

Simply put, yes. Vans can be recycled in a number of different ways and recycling them is a great way to prolong the life of your shoes, ensuring they end up somewhere much less damaging for the environment.

At Vans we use a number of different materials to make our shoes, including leather, rubber and cotton which are all recyclable materials in their own right. In fact, one of our shoes’ signature features is their vulcanised rubber construction which can be found on most of our shoes, including our Vans Old Skool Shoes.

Although the production process for these materials does have an environmental impact, we make sure we work with organisations who are actively reducing their carbon footprint such as the Leather Working Group and Better Cotton Initiative.

Take them to a recycling centre or clothes bank

The easiest way for you to recycle your Vans is to take them to a local recycling centre or clothes bank. This method of recycling is quick and convenient and you’re probably closer than you think to a clothes bank, with many located in supermarket car parks. You could also make use of our TAKE BACK program to recycle your old Vans by dropping them into one of our selected stores.

Most recycling centres and clothes banks will encourage you to tie your shoes together so they can be sorted quickly and easily. Where possible, shoes are collected by charity shops and either resold or sent to developing countries for people in need. However, if the shoes are unable to be resold or reused, the textiles will be broken down and used for anything from building insulation to playground materials.

Upcycle and reuse

Recycling doesn’t have to mean completely getting rid of your shoes. If your Vans are still in a usable state but could benefit from a little TLC, then upcycling is a great way to effectively recycle and reuse them.

There are several ways you can give your Vans a new lease of life through upcycling and it isn’t always a mammoth task. Sprucing up your Vans with fresh laces and a good clean counts just as much as dying them a new colour or getting creative with permanent markers and a hot glue gun!

In the spirit of upcycling and reusing, we have launched our renewable materials collections, so you can invest in comfort and style at the same time as a greener future. For the fashion and sustainability conscious, we’re working on ensuring all of the materials in our shoes are free from animal-derived substances. When we’re able to certify that specific products are completely animal-free and vegan Vans are available, we will note this within the item descriptions to make it easier for you to identify.

Donate to charity

Similar to dropping off at your local recycling centre, charity shops are also a great recycling option for your Vans whilst they’re still in a usable condition. When you donate to a charity shop, your shoes will either be resold in-store with the profits going directly to the parent charity or they will be packaged up and donated to someone less fortunate.

When donating to a charity shop, it’s important to think about whether someone else would want your shoes. If they’re in a less-desirable state or beyond repair, then it’s probably best that they go to a recycling centre.  

Compost your cotton

Composting cotton is a slightly less conventional method of recycling, but is something we think we’ll see a lot more of in the coming years. If your Vans include natural cotton as part of their makeup then it’s possible for you to take up this method of recycling, although it does take a little extra effort and time.

Many of our shoes, including the Vans Slip-Ons, are made using canvas which is produced from cotton, making the upper material part of them decomposable.

To compost your cotton, you will need to first ensure that the cotton part of your shoe is separated from any zips, buttons or non-cotton materials. Following this, you can cut or tear the cotton into smaller pieces to speed up the composting process before simply dropping them into a compost bin to let nature do the rest.

Remember to dispose of the other materials effectively by taking them to your local textiles recycling centre so they can be repurposed into something new.

Combining our efforts to manage waste is extremely important for the environment and recycling as much as we can is a great way for us all to get involved. Likewise, we’re constantly looking for more ways that we can do our bit when it comes to manufacturing. If you’d like to learn more about the production process, check out our blog to find out how Vans shoes are made.