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Nike has shelved its popular recycling scheme in the UK in response to higher costs arising from Brexit.
The Reuse-a-Shoe scheme allowed UK customers to deposit their old trainers at a Nike store, where they would be shipped to one of Nike’s four distribution centres in Flanders, Belgium, to be recycled into rubber for use in track surfaces, gym flooring and new Nike footwear and apparel.
“Bring your old pair and join us on a journey towards zero carbon, zero waste, future-proof sport,” the company’s marketing materials stated.
However, Brexit and the subsequent introduction of EU export tariffs mean the scheme is no longer economically viable. Higher haulage and excise costs mean the programme is roughly one-third more expensive for Nike to run.
The company is yet to announce the scheme’s permanent suspension but Reuse-a-Shoe was placed on hiatus in spring 2020, when Nike’s UK retail outlets were closed due to Covid-19. A landing page for the site remains accessible through the company’s British website, although clicking through to “learn more” about the scheme takes you to a page that simply reads: “The product you are looking for is no longer available.”
Customers can still collect a recycling bag from Nike stores, in which they can send their old shoes to one of the Belgian distribution centres. As well as packing the items, individuals now have to cover postage costs, previously borne by Nike itself.
A Nike spokesperson said: “We can confirm Nike’s Reuse-a-Shoe programme is not currently available in the UK. Nike offers our recycling and donation programme in 22 markets across the Europe, Middle East and Africa region, where consumers can have a positive impact on our planet and their communities by dropping off gently worn footwear and apparel at participating local Nike stores for recycling or donation.”
Compared with other footwear, trainers can be especially difficult to recycle as they often contain a number of composite materials held together with hard-to-recycle glue. It is estimated that Britons send about 150 million pairs of shoes to landfill every year, with only about 15% of post-consumer shoe waste being recycled or redistributed.
Simon Ellin, chief executive of the Recycling Association, which represents British recyclers, said the industry was undergoing a host of Brexit-related issues, not least the HGV driver shortage and a one-third rise in export costs. He said: “Brexit has brought huge challenges for our industry, not least the mountain of expensive red tape we now need to enable us to export recycled materials on to the continent for reprocessing.
“Brexit has also meant we have had to change our trading terms with our European partners for VAT purposes. This has proved challenging but it has been very encouraging that most of our European outlets have engaged with us to find a workable system. We now just regard it as the new norm.”