Why we need 8,000 smelly, old climbing shoes

You are probably reading this, because you want to know a bit more about those Clean Climber bins at your local Monk or Mountain Network gym. We’re going to tell you this in a brief format, because we know that smelly climbing shoes are not something you want to dwell on too long. 

We use a ton of climbing shoes every year, some of us go through one or two pairs, some even more. These go onto garbage heaps and they don’t need to. We can actually fix them, but even when they’re completely done (is your toe poking out, then your shoe is done) we need to think what we do with them. You’ve got the 5 R’s of sustainability (refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose, and then recycle) to consider here and that’s what this is all about*.

Circular Chain Project

We’re collecting these shoes as part of a circular chain project, subsidized by the RVO (CKP2100016), which means we’re trying to establish and involve the supply chain of climbing shoes. We’re talking to manufacturers, resolers, vendors and waste managers alike about what we can do with old shoes. The result is this project, where we turn used-up climbing shoes into sport mats for your local climbing gym (perhaps your gym has already pre-ordered them). 

Grinding those bad boots

We’ve partnered up with a lot of folks for this project, but for now let’s focus on what happens to your trusty old pair of odorous kicks. We need a certain amount of volume to realize our goal, and that’s set at 8,000 shoes. These we take to Fast Feet Grinded, who grind down the old shoes. If you handed in your shoes in the past: THANKS! It took quite some calibration to get the setting right for their machine to grind up climbing shoes (normally, they mangle sneakers, which are a different thing entirely). All this ground rubber, we take to the manufacturer Stockz who will make our mats. That’s the game, really!** For this whole process, we work closely together with Sympany, one of our partners. They have tons of experience in circular chains with clothing-to-resource projects.

That’s not all, folks!

We are working on various other projects, like our ReSole program. Increasing scale, making things viable, it is a big challenge but we are excited and amazed by the positive reception of the climbing world. We’ve received many requests from not-affiliated gyms in the Netherlands and Belgium for our programs and in France, a sister-organization is starting up. We are still a group of volunteers, and all your help (and smelly shoes) are so much appreciated!

Want to help out, talk to us or just share your ideas? Get in touch!

* We are aware that some people prefer 6 R’s, or 10 R’s or whatever number, so mentally replace that for whatever has your preference, in the end the goal is the same. 

** For this project we recycle all the rubber from climbing shoes, which accounts to about 50% of the shoe’s weight. The other 50% is for now non-recyclable, we’re working on it!