The JogOn campaign was launched earlier this year. The goal: to extend the life of 1 million pairs of running shoes and keep them out of landfill. According to estimates 30 million pairs of running shoes go to landfill each year. Most of these are perfectly good shoes that have lost some a bit too much of their spring. As a runner with too many old shoes lying around the house I wanted to learn more. I caught up with founder of the JogOn campaign, Tony Piedale. We chatted about the issue of used but perfectly good running shoes ending up in landfill, the positive impact these shoes can still have and what the running community can do to be part of the solution.
Jacob: Great to meet you Tony. Can you tell us more about JogOn?
Tony: There are estimates that some 30m pairs of running shoes go into landfill every year. We have set out a bold target of removing 1m pairs of running shoes from landfill. That does not mean just our own landfill in the UK, but that we don’t supply shoes to anyone around the world that will end up immediately in their own landfill. We know that for athletes the running shoe may have lost its support system and cushioning at about 500 miles of use, but that does not render the shoe useless. They are still useful to people around the world who desperately need them.
Jacob: What made you decide to get involved in this issue?
Tony: Earlier this year I read an headline in the Guardian that said “Some soles last a 1,000 years in landfill.” Effectively, this means that every single pair of running shoes EVER made, is still on the planet! This made me a little uncomfortable. In 2009 I launched a running platform Jogging Buddy to help people get more active by buddying them up. We are now in 128 countries! I was afraid that I was adding to the problem by actively encouraging people to take up more exercise.
That is what fuelled my interest. I looked around and there was nothing obvious that addressed the problem in the way that was accessible to me as an individual. So, I decided to do something about it.
Jacob: How does the campaign work?
Tony: There are a number of ways that people can help. As an individual you can send us your running shoes. Visit our website and print off a label. You will have to pay the postage I’m afraid, but once we have the shoes, we take care of the rest.
Jacob: What do you do with the shoes once you have them?
Tony: We effectively have 4 channels for these shoes.
We support charities that may have a need. A good example is our recent support for a charity that deals with refugees, were we send shoes to.
We support NGOs that do outreach programs. Any NGO doing outreach education programs using sports as a conduit can expect support from us
We support and supply micro economies, these are families around the world who make a living from selling shoes and clothing in flea markets.
End of life - finally, we deal with the end of life shoes, These are the shoe that we know have little or no further use. We take care of our own rubbish here in the UK! We are working with a team of experts to create a suitable shredding machine to properly dispose of these shoes. Our hope is that the by-product will be used in playground resurfacing, power generation and other useful products.
Jacob: Do you take any shoes?
Tony: As long as the shoes are not caked in mud, you can send them to us. We do the sorting here at JogOn HQ. Just remember to tie the pair together at the laces to save us time trying to pair them up.
Jacob: What are the goals for the campaign? What impact do you hope to achieve?
Tony: Our goals is simply to recognise there is a problem and provide a viable solution that prolongs the lifetime and usefulness of a pair of running shoes. So much effort goes into producing these amazing shoes, it’s a shame to let them linger in the back of cupboard or a garage or worse still, so into landfill.
Jacob: How's it all going so far?
Tony: It’s been amazing. We have packed over 2,500 pairs so far. Clearly we need to do a lot more to reach our goal of 1m pairs, but we are off to a great start. We have a number of great partnerships with Universities, leisure centres, running clubs, independent retailers and even libraries!
Jacob: Is there anything you think the big brands should be doing?
Tony: This campaign isn’t really about bashing brands about their eco credentials. I think there are lots of things they can do better and I know that many of them are looking at how they can make production improvements. Like most people, I would encourage them to keep investing and exploring better ways and processes which have a lower environmental impact, whilst protecting the need to produce a good shoe to help people stay active and injury free.
I would also invite them to send to us directly shoes that are surplus to need or end-of-line productions. We will find those shoes some new feet!
Jacob: What can runners do to support JogOn and keep their shoes from being part of the problem?
The first thing to do is to send us your old shoes!
You can also speak to your friends, neighbours, running clubs, church halls and even pubs and do a collection. Put them all in a bigger box and send them to us. We know people that are doing big clear-outs at their running clubs that are doing some collections and asking members for a £1 donation to pay for the postage. Anything you can do would be helpful.
The other final ask, is to help us spread the word! Tell your friends on social media about us, give them a link to www.jogonagain.com.