Shoe recycling project partners to appoint only contractors not involved in second-hand trading

SINGAPORE – National agency Sport Singapore (SportSG) and its partners in a shoe recycling project have tightened their processes since lapses were discovered, and these recovery steps include appointing only contractors and subcontractors that are not involved in any second-hand trading of textiles or shoes.

Revealing this in Parliament on Monday, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong said the project partners will also ensure that all collected shoes are transported to local waste management firm Alba-WH’s premises without any aggregation or sorting at any intermediary premises to avoid a mix-up.

The project partners will also conduct regular spot checks and inspections at contractors’ and subcontractors’ premises, he said, responding to questions from several MPs on efforts to strengthen the ministry’s oversight of the project.

A mix up happened at the premises of Yok Impex, Alba-WH’s subcontractor, resulting in old sneakers meant to be recycled for use in building playgrounds and running tracks being mistakenly sold in Indonesia. Alba-WH has since terminated the services of Yok Impex.

The other project partners are sporting goods retailer Decathlon, chemical company Dow, Standard Chartered bank and surface solutions firm B.T. Sports.

Assuring the House that the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) remains committed to Singapore’s national sustainability agenda, Mr Tong said: “I hope that this episode will not deter the public from supporting such initiatives as these are important and impactful in protecting our environment.”

He hopes Singaporeans will continue to support such recycling efforts as the project, noting that 10,000kg of shoes have been processed and used in sport infrastructure such as the running track at the Kallang Football Hub, and an 888m jogging trail under construction in Jurong Town.

The remaining recycled granules are planned for use in sport centres in Serangoon, Bukit Canberra and Punggol, as well as in jogging tracks, fitness corners and playgrounds around Singapore, he said.

Launched by Dow in partnership with SportSG in September 2020, the project aimed to upcycle the soles from 300,000 pairs of shoes contributed by the public for use as materials for building jogging tracks, fitness areas and playgrounds over the next three years.

Contributors contributed their used shoes at over 30 collection points, such as ActiveSG sport centres and stadiums, Decathlon and JD Sports stores. Collected shoes were expected to make their way to a Singaporean recycling facility where they would be ground up into rubber granules for use in construction projects.

However, an investigative report by Reuters found that at least some of these donated shoes did not make it to the recycling facility.

Under its investigation, journalists had donated 11 pairs of shoes at different locations around Singapore and tracked them over a six-month period using Apple AirTags.

According to its report, none of the shoes made it to a Singapore recycling facility, with several pairs ending up for sale in crowded bazaars in neighbouring Batam and Indonesian capital Jakarta. 

The lapse highlighted in the Reuters investigation prompted Sport Singapore (SportSG) and its partners in the shoe recycling project to issue a joint apology on Feb 27.


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