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Steps taken to tighten process chain in shoe recycling project led by SportSG, Dow

The services of a subcontractor were terminated after a Reuters investigation found that several pairs of shoes meant for recycling were put up for sale in Indonesia.

Steps taken to tighten process chain in shoe recycling project led by SportSG, Dow

Reuters reporter Joe Brock holds a child's shoe next to rubber he removed from the shoe's sole, at the Reuters office in Singapore on Sep 7, 2022. (Photo: REUTERS/Joseph Campbell)

SINGAPORE: Partners of a shoe recycling programme led by Sport Singapore (SportSG) and US company Dow have taken steps to tighten the process chain, after a Reuters investigation found that several pairs of donated shoes were sent to Indonesia where they were put on sale.

Measures to tighten the process include appointing only contractors and subcontractors that are not involved in any secondhand trading of textiles or shoes.

The recycling programme, which was set up in 2021, harvests the rubberised soles and midsoles of donated footwear. The recycled granules are then used in sports infrastructure in Singapore. 

Responding to parliamentary questions on the matter, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong said on Monday (Mar 20) that the services of a subcontractor, Yok Impex, were terminated after project partners looked into issues raised in the Reuters report.

Yok Impex had been engaged by one of the project partners, waste collector Alba-WH, to help with collecting donated shoes from recycling bins in selected parts of Singapore.

These bins were sorted at Yok Impex’s premises before being sent to Alba-WH’s warehouse for registering and weighing.

They were then delivered to a grinding facility managed by BT Sports, said Mr Tong. The facility is the first in Singapore that is able to grind recycled shoes into granules for use as building materials. 

According to Reuters, which tracked 11 pairs of shoes, nearly all the footwear ended up with Yok Impex. Ten pairs were later exported to Indonesia. One remains in Singapore, with its tracking device still intact. 

"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," Mr Tong said on Monday.

"Alba-WH has since terminated the services of Yok Impex."

As part of efforts to tighten the process chain, Mr Tong said only contractors and sub-contractors that are not involved in any secondhand trading of textiles or shoes have been appointed. 

All the collected shoes will now be transported to Alba-WH’s premises without any aggregation or sorting at any other places beforehand, and regular spot checks and inspections will be conducted on contractors and sub-contractors, he added. 

According to the minister, the project has “otherwise been running well” - 10,000kg of shoes have been processed and used at the running track at Kallang Football Hub and an 888m jogging trail under construction in Jurong Town.

The remaining recycled granules are planned for use in sports centres in Serangoon, Bukit Canberra and Punggol, as well as in jogging tracks, fitness corners and playgrounds around Singapore, Mr Tong said. 

“I hope that this episode will not deter the public from supporting such initiatives as these are important and impactful in protecting our environment," he added.

Following the Reuters report, Indonesia also said on Mar 6 that it would tighten customs checks at small ports to crack down on the illegal import of secondhand shoes.

Source: CNA/hw(gs)


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