Community is recycling shoes to reduce pollution and save money

It takes thousands of years for a pair of shoes to disinegrate
Posted at 9:11 PM, Jun 09, 2021

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (KMTV) -- Millions of pairs of shoes end up in our landfills each year, polluting the environment. The 712 Initiative in Council Bluffs, Iowa, collects old and unwanted shoes to keep them out of our landfill.

"When shoes are made they are most commonly made with rubber soles, with toxic chemicals. If they are thrown into an incinerator or landfill all of those toxic chemicals are pushed back into our environment," said Julia Woods, Director of Programming & Events, 712 Initiative.

The number 712 is the area code for the Council Bluffs area.

An estimated 20 billion pairs of shoes are made every year and about 300 million are thrown in landfills.

The 712 Initiative's shoe collection not only helps protect the environment but, also saves the city money.

"They pay per ton to dump trash. If we save them (the city) 10 tons of fees they have to pay to the landfill, that is how we are saving the city money," said Carol Horner, a volunteer with 712 Initiative.

A lot of the Council Bluffs community gets involved.

"A lot of it comes from schools in the area. Everyone gets excited. It's a fun thing and teachers get to teach them math, different calculations, different ways to package (the shoes) — learn about recycling in general," added Woods.

Horner says people look forward to the shoe drive.

"Everyone was like, 'wait, where is the shoe drive? I have shoes to donate.' I was storing shoes in my garage because people were handing me shoes year-round," she explained.

Some shoes take tens of thousands of years to decompose. The mid-sole of a running shoe can last in a landfill for up to a thousand years.

The shoe collection also serves a more altruistic purpose; they are donated to underdeveloped countries for people to wear, sell for scrap, or are re-purposed — giving them another walk in life.

This story originally reported by Danielle Davis on