Stricter laws for shoe recycling to prevent resale

SINGAPORE — Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth has reassured the public that partners for a shoe recycling project have taken steps to tighten its process chain after Reuter’s published their observations that shoes donated and put into recycling bins in Singapore which were intended for the shoe recycling programme were being diverted for resale.

Minister Tong explained in Parliament that an investigation was immediately commenced by the project partners to look into these observations. The shoe recycling programme is a joint initiative set up in 2021 by Dow and Sport Singapore. Other partners, such as BT Sports and Alba-WH, are involved in the project and play various roles in the process chain. Dow’s role is to manage the integration of the respective roles and promote the use of safe and sustainable materials. 

Sport Singapore promotes the use of these materials to install sports infrastructure and sets up shoe collection points at its ActiveSG sports centres. Alba-WH is the appointed collection partner responsible for collecting shoes, and delivers them to BT Sports which manages the facility to grind the recycled shoes into granules for use as building materials.  

Alba-WH, as the party responsible for the collection of the shoe recycling bins, had engaged Yok Impex to do so for selected parts of Singapore. These bins were brought to and sorted at Yok Impex’s premises before being sent to Alba-WH’s warehouse for registering and weighing. They were subsequently delivered to the grinding facility.

“The investigation found that the shoe recycling bins at Yok Impex’s premises were not properly segregated from their other sorting activities, resulting in some shoes which were meant for recycling being exported to other countries for resale. Alba-WH has since terminated the services of Yok Impex,” said Minister Tong.

In the report by Reuters, they had inserted a tracking device hidden in the sole of the donated shoes. According to Reuters, they tracked the 11 donated shoes and nearly all ended up with Yok Impex, with 10 pairs of shoes later being shipped to Indonesia and the remaining pairs still in Singapore.

As part of tightening the process chain and to prevent a repeat of this unwanted episode, Minister Tong explained that the project partners will only be appointing contractors and subcontractors that are not involved in any second-hand trading of textiles or shoes. 

Other enhanced measures include transporting all collected shoes to Alba-WH’s premises without any aggregation or sorting at any intermediary premises, and to conduct regular spot checks and inspections at contractors’ and subcontractors’ premises.

“I hope that this episode will not deter the public from supporting such initiatives as these are important and impactful in protecting our environment. This initiative has led to more environmentally-friendly material being used in the construction of our public sports infrastructure. We assure the public that MCCY and the public service remains committed to our Singapore Green Plan 2030 efforts to support the national sustainability agenda,” explained Minister Tong

“To date, the project has otherwise been running well. 10,000 kg of shoes have been processed and used in sport infrastructure such as the running track at the Kallang Football Hub, and an 888-metre jogging trail under construction in Jurong Town,” added the Minister.

The Minister added that the remaining recycled granules are planned for use in sport centres such as in Serangoon, Bukit Canberra and Punggol, as well as in jogging tracks, fitness corners, and playgrounds around Singapore.

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