Millions of shoes are trashed in the U.S. each year. That's a lot of Nikes and Converse that are languishing in landfills, never to be seen again. But a new shoe company hopes to change that. Remyxx, in Charlotte, N.C., announced Monday that it would go into production with a 100% recyclable sneaker made from a blend of plastic, polyresin fabric and rubber.
Remyxx was featured on the season finale of the hit ABC TV show "Shark Tank" in May, after which Remyxx founder Gary Gagnon was tasked with proving consumer interest in the concept through the online fundraising site Kickstarter.com. On Monday, Remyxx reached its $40,000 fundraising goal, preselling more than 450 pairs of shoes, which will now go into production. Five styles will be manufactured in sizes ranging from a youth 4 to a men's 12. Deliveries are expected in October.
"I'm your everyday consumer who lives in the suburbs, but I've always been a diligent recycler," said Gagnon, who was inspired to create the shoes in 2009, when he noticed his kids' beaten-up sneakers piled near the trash can. "I thought, 'Wouldn't it be nice to recycle sneakers?' "
It would, indeed. While some shoe companies use recycled content in their products, most shoes still end up in landfills due to their use of mixed materials. And while Nike's Reuse-A-Shoe program has recycled an astounding 25 million pairs of athletic shoes into things like running tracks since 1990, it's still just a drop in the bucket.
Gagnon, 43, had never worked in fashion or had ever thought to go into the footwear business, but he set to work on discovering whether a 100% recyclable shoe was possible. He hired a chemist and consulted with various recycling entities. He investigated what makes most shoes nonrecyclable and learned that some sneakers contain more than 100 different materials.
Gagnon says Remyxx shoes are constructed from a mix of polyresin materials. The top part looks like canvas, the sole like rubber. The entire thing is classified as, and labeled with, the No. 5 recycling symbol and can be recycled curbside in many cities that accept No. 5 plastics -- presuming the recycling agencies recognize the shoes as recyclable.
"It's still a sneaker to the collection agency," acknowledged Gagnon, who advocates "true and honest recyclability." To reduce the likelihood of Remyxx shoes being thrown in the recycling bin but still winding up in a landfilll, Remyxx plans to run a take-back program called Reduce, Reuse, Remyxx. Consumers who mail their used sneakers back to the company will get a $5 credit toward another pair, Gagnon said. While Remyxx shoes will be made in China, they'll be recycled in the U.S., he added.
As for the involvement of "Shark Tank" advisor, Daymond John, Gagnon said he was offered $50,000 for an 80% stake in the company on the show -- a deal Gagnon took but hasn't played out. John does not own a majority stake in Remyxx but is, instead, consulting with Gagnon.
-- Susan Carpenter
Photos: Remyxx 100% recyclable sneakers; No. 5 plastic recycling symbol. Credit: Remyxx