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Published: 5/27/2009

Old athletic shoes step into new role

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
From leftto right: Sophomores Rachel Wismer, Molly Jordan, and Joel LaPoint of the Owens Community College Environmental Club sort through donated sneakers that will be shipped to the Nike Recycling Center in Wilsonville, Ore. From leftto right: Sophomores Rachel Wismer, Molly Jordan, and Joel LaPoint of the Owens Community College Environmental Club sort through donated sneakers that will be shipped to the Nike Recycling Center in Wilsonville, Ore.
THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON Enlarge | Buy This Photo
Bins full of shoes are lined up before being shipped in the Nike Reuse-A-Shoe program. The shoes will be ground and used to make athletic surfaces such as soccer fields, basketball courts, and running tracks. Bins full of shoes are lined up before being shipped in the Nike Reuse-A-Shoe program. The shoes will be ground and used to make athletic surfaces such as soccer fields, basketball courts, and running tracks.
THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Molly Jordan was not averse to helping sort 1,200 pairs of used shoes, carefully deciding whether they should be donated to needy families or incorporated into recreational surfaces like the children's playground at Fifth Third Field.

Disposable gloves covered the Sylvania Township woman's hands last week as she sorted through the donated shoes at Owens Community College in Perrysburg Township, where the alumna is a member of the Environmental Club. And knowing the worn-out athletic shoes would be recycled was a good motivator.

"It's taking something that would otherwise end up in a landfill, and it's taking it and using it for something that is needed," said Ms. Jordan, who is studying environmental policy and analysis at Bowling Green State University.

This is the second year Owens has collected used athletic shoes primarily to be sent to the Nike Recycling Center in Wilsonville, Ore., one of many recycling programs the community college has championed.

Since mid-2006, for example, student organizations have collected more than 36,000 textbooks and other books for a national charitable organization. Better World Books disseminates the books, which otherwise might have been thrown out, to impoverished people worldwide.

Last year, meanwhile, Owens received a $75,000 grant through Wood County Solid Waste Management and Ohio to put bins around campus to collect pop cans and other recyclables, as well as to buy equipment to sort materials, said John Byers, the college's manager of student activities.

As part of Nike Inc.'s Reuse-A-Shoe program, Owens collected about 1,200 pairs of donated used shoes this year from its campuses in Perrysburg Township and Findlay. The Environmental Club first did the project last year, when more than 1,000 pairs were collected.

"We just thought it was a good program," Mr. Byers said.

Nike cuts each shoe into three slices - rubber outsole, foam midsole, and fabric upper - then feeds them through grinders. The recycled materials are incorporated into surfaces for various uses, including basketball, running, and playgrounds such as the one at Fifth Third Field in downtown Toledo.

Since 1990, Nike has recycled more than 23 million worn-out pairs of athletic shoes. Shoes collected by Owens that still are usable are given to the Cherry Street Mission to be worn by those in need, Mr. Byers said.

Owens last year gave all the worn-out shoes it collected to Perrysburg, which has been involved with the Nike program for several years. The college had enough donated shoes, though, to mount its own drive, said Judy Hagen, program coordinator for Perrysburg's litter prevention and recycling office.

Shoes are collected from the parochial and public schools in Perrysburg, fitness clubs, Owens-Illinois Inc., and two athletic stores, Ms. Hagen said. Usable shoes are given to Mission International, the non-profit group with which Dr. Jay Nielsen, a local physician, goes on mission trips to Haiti, she said.

Perrysburg takes its worn-out athletic shoes to Fremont, where they are combined with others and picked up by Nike for delivery to its recycling center in Oregon, Ms. Hagen said. This year, Perrysburg collected about 1,850 pairs, she said.

"It's of no cost for those of us who participate," Ms. Hagen added.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at:

jmckinnon@theblade.com

or 419-724-6087.



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