There’s nothing like slipping into your favorite flops to beat the heat (and show off a beach-ready pedi). And while they may be an affordable and comfy shoe choice, they can quickly become costly for the environment.
Often made from synthetic rubber, the average flip flop—and primary shoe choice for over 3 billion people worldwide—will not only release harmful chemicals as it breaks down in landfills, but it’ll more likely end up in the ocean as part of the 8 million tons of plastic polluting marine life annually. According to Ocean Sole, a Kenya-based environmental conservation group, approximately 90 tons of discarded flip flops wind up on the coasts of East African beaches alone.
But this doesn’t mean you have to ditch the slip-on sandal. Thanks to various eco-organizations, recycling your flip flops (and shopping for more sustainable options) is easier than ever.
Easily find a recycling site near you for old flip flops, shoes, (and pretty much anything else) with this online database and eco-hub. Simple enter in the object you’re looking to recycle and your zip code for a list of locations from community centers to mail-back programs you never knew about that are happy to take old items off your hands.
Here’s an easy one: check the sole of your flip flop for a PLUSfoam logo. If you spot one, it means that your shoes were made with an eco-alternative to conventional rubber that was produced with zero post-manufacturing waste. Even better, it means that you can recycle your shoes with PLUSfoam’s mail-back program. Simply select your brand on the site—they teamed up with over 20 shoe brands from Patagonia and Sperry to Toms—and download your shipping label.
Give your pre-loved flip flops and other shoes to this Tennesee-based non-profit on a mission to provide shoes to those in need. By teaming up with Zappos and DSW, Sole4Souls helps collect your gently-worn shoes via drop-off sites around the country, or by sending you a prepaid shipping label. All you need to do is pack up your old sandals in a box to help make the world a little greener.
From contact lens cases to snack wrappers, this eco-org will happily recycle your hard-to-recycles, flip flops included. You will need to purchase a collection box however (they start at $61) but this includes a free shipping label for easy returns once your box is full. Don’t have enough flip flops around the house? Try rallying your friends, family, and neighbors to pitch in their old soles, too.
Plus, sustainable flip flops we love:
The Atlanta-based shoe makers behind Third Oak are on a mission to give your summer footware a sustainable makeover. Made from their signature Microplast—a blend of bio-based plant materials, soy, and recycled materials—each pair feels just like the rubber soles you love (dare we save, even better), but is also 100 percent recyclable. When you're ready to get a new pair, simply mail your old ones back to be recycled and get 15 percent off your next pair as a thank-you. We bet the planet will thank you, too.