Step aside Captain Planet; new kids are on the block

Reduce, reuse, recycle. Almost anything can be recycled – even ratty, old sneakers.

Eco Sneakers’ founder, Bobby Johnson, grew up in poverty and knows what it is like to go without shoes. His nonprofit grew out of a passion to help people in need while simultaneously helping the environment.

Initially, Eco Sneakers collected gently used sneakers to share with the homeless community.

Today, some sneakers are sent abroad, creating distribution jobs; others, too tattered to re-wear, are recycled into athletic surfaces for football fields, basketball courts and running tracks.

Since 2012, community liaison Lynn McCray has been connecting Eco Sneakers with businesses, government agencies, hospitals, schools and sports organizations in the Atlanta area, engaging them in friendly competitions with each other to collect as many pairs of old sneakers as possible.

Recently, Georgia Power won a “Sneaker Week” challenge beating the Cancer Society and Zeller Realty by collecting 557 pairs. Celebrating the victory with ice pops from King of Pops, Georgia Power shared it with the Atlanta Children’s Shelter.

Eco Sneakers has collected over 300,000 sneakers, averaging 3,000 to 5,000 per month.

Made with material called ethylene vinyl, the midsoles of shoes can take up to 1,000 years to decompose. Rather than languishing in a landfill, this durable material is recyclable.

It takes approximately 3,000 recycled sneakers to make a basketball court; 100,000 for an artificial football field or running track according to Eco Sneakers.

McCray says they are working on end-of-school recycling events with several Atlanta Public Schools, as well as partnering with VeloCity Atlanta for their cycling event on May 4. Eco Sneakers is also in the planning stages with the Atlanta Track Club for their 2019 Braves Country 5K on June 1 at SunTrust Park and the July 4 Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race.

“This is a program that checks many boxes; humanitarian, sustainability, health and participant engagement,” McCray said.

For a complete list of drop-off locations, information on how to host a shoe drive or to partner with Eco Sneakers, visit their website at

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