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Singaporean government and chemical producer Dow has come under scrutiny following an investigation into their shoe recycling program. The initiative, launched in 2022, aimed to recycle the rubber soles and midsoles of donated shoes into material for constructing playgrounds and running tracks. However, a recent report has revealed that most of the donated shoes were not recycled but were exported to another country.
The investigation was carried out by Reuters, following previous recycling failures by Dow. Journalists donated pairs of shoes to the initiative but secretly placed AirTags in the soles of 11 pairs to track their movements. The results revealed that most of the shoes ended up in Indonesia, with one pair remaining in Singapore, though it was located a mile away from the donation bin, suggesting it may have been taken by someone else.
The report alleges that the tagged shoes were taken by a second-hand goods exporter who was hired by a waste management company involved in the recycling scheme. Dow has since launched its own investigation, along with state agency Sport Singapore and other program sponsors. The exporter will reportedly be out of the project from March 1.
In a statement, Dow emphasized that it and its partners “do not condone any unauthorized removal or export of shoes collected through this program and remain committed to safeguarding the integrity of the collection and recycle process“.
The shoe recycling program was intended to be a positive step toward sustainability, but the investigation has raised serious concerns about the program’s implementation and oversight. It remains to be seen how Dow and the Singaporean government will address the issue and ensure that similar incidents do not occur in the future.