Can we handle climbing shoes more sustainably?
Every year we bin around 80,000 kilograms of climbing shoes into waste bins. What happens to this waste is that it mostly goes to landfills or is simply incinerated. This, we believe, is ridiculous. We believe that's a cycle of consumerism we can change for the better, but that's not something we can do by ourselves. We need to work together with the entire supply chain.
What we've done before, as Clean Climber, is gather old climbing shoes that are still perfectly usable. Let's be frank that is a tiny percentage of what is thrown into waste bins and frequently just left behind in climbing gyms. We've placed donation bins in the past, yet we don't even see part of what gets thrown away (but it's a lot). Usable shoes, we shipped to various countries, where buying a pair of climbing shoes is not necessarily an option. That's the first step; reusing them. But what about the broken ones?
What we started last year is a pilot to resole climbing shoes. Resoling technology has advanced and the knowledge of resoling cobblers is much better than it used to be. By making this service more accessible, we noticed a large number of people are willing to repair their climbing shoes, even when the costs are relatively high, relative to the price of a beginners' pair of shoes. This is the second step, because resoling simply elongates product life, reducing waste and resource-use.
But here comes the crux (as we like to say); resoling is again only possible for a limited amount of shoes. Many climbers have already burned through their soles by the time they realize the shoes need a fix. These shoes are done, kaputt, finito, and binwards they go. But what if we could treat these shoes as a resource? What if we could find better ways to recycle their components and make our sport more circular?
Clean Climber has embarked on a quest, where we have gathered a collaboration of partners invested in making climbing shoes more sustainable in the Netherlands. These partners range from climbing gyms to shoe cobblers, recyclers and manufacturers of sports mats. In short, a supply chain, because this makes us eligible for a project grant 'Circular Chain Projects' from the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. We're eagerly awaiting the results of our joint application. More soon!