BYFIELD — Some shoes are made for running the track while some can build a track. At least that’s what Triton athletic department secretary Karen Atherton is hoping as she collects pairs of shoes to assist the Team Triton Stadium Project.
“People tell me, ‘Oh my gosh, Karen. Do you have any idea how many pairs of sneakers and shoes that I have sitting in my closet that I’d love to find a home for?’” Atherton said. “I told them to bring them to the schools, the stores and the bank.”
Atherton and the Stadium Project partnered with ShoeBox Recycling in June of 2012, and so far have helped to recycle 5,167 pounds of old shoes, raising $2,583.50 toward the new stadium’s $2.5 million price tag along the way.
Triton and ShoeBox have also partnered with The Greater Boston Running Company, Yankee Runner and the Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank and placed a shoe receptacle at each business, as well as at each of Triton’s five schools. Once a month, Atherton and Triton facilities manager Chris Walsh visit the sites to pick up the donations.
“There was a period of time where I was going at least once a week to the Greater Boston Running Company, because people were filling the boxes tight,” Atherton said.
ShoeBox has partnered with more than 2,600 different organizations, many of them schools, over the past two years, buying old and used pairs of shoes. The Pennsylvania-based company pays 50 cents a pound for the shoes and has recycled more than one million pounds of footwear in the past two years.
“Rubber lasts 200 years in a dump or landfill,” Atherton said. “To me, it was a great idea to get money from recycling and keep it away from the dumps.”
Once the shoes are back at Triton High School, Atherton boxes them up and ships them, prepaid to ShoeBox. From there the real journey begins. Thirty-five percent of the shoes stay domestic but the rest leave the country. Since ShoeBox has relationships all over the globe, the shoes are shipped and sold to vendors, cleaned and resold in countries such as Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guatemala, Chile, Kenya, India, Bolivia, Haiti, Poland and Zimbabwe. According to ShoeBox, more than 70 percent of the world’s population depends on shoe and clothing reuse to live.
“It’s just like any other commodity,” ShoeBox recycling sole mover and partnership manager Sandy Newfield said. “It’s sold and sent off. A buyer will come buy a bunch of boxes and then they are often resold in another country.”
Back here in Byfield, Atherton said the influx of shoes has slowed a bit of late, but she is chalking that up to the season more than anything else.
“It’s been a steady flow,” Atherton said. “But it has been a quiet winter. I don’t know if that’s because people are not cleaning their closets, but everybody has shoes that they could get rid of in their closet.”
Atherton also said that the fundraiser has helped her local partners as well. Yankee Runner owner Rick Bayko had been paying per box to ship out recycled shoes, she aid,
“He told me I was saving him money,” she said. “And with the Greater Boston Running Company, no matter who they mentioned it to, they say what a great idea (it is). They have all the shoes sitting at the bottom of their closets and it’s great to have them go somewhere instead of taking up space in dumps.”
“We’re really happy to have them,” Newfield said of Triton. “Karen is doing really well, we’re really happy. It’s wonderful to have that strong relationship.”
Not all the shoes that are collected go to ShoeBox since they don’t take winter boots, roller blades, ice skates or slippers. Those are given to school nurses for kids they know of who need them or go to the Pettengill House. And then there’s the single shoes that are donated, which can’t be used either.
“I’ve got a whole bag of singles,” Atherton said, with a laugh.