Shoe collection will help other nations

With four children, ages 10 to 16, Kellie Conti Havey had a ton of shoes and sneakers in worn-down condition that were cluttering the household closets. About 40 pairs to be exact.

An avid recycler, the Alden woman hated to clutter the landfill with the remnants of the family’s closets. When she heard Luzerne County was conducting a shoe recycling collection to help others, that provided the impetus to start collecting the worn-out footwear. And collect she did. She recently brought in two garbage bags full of shoes and sneakers to a recycling day event at Luzerne County Community College in Nanticoke.

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council is hoping other area residents will dig deep into the back of their closets and gather all the unworn shoes and donate them to the major recycling effort.

“You’re really giving your shoes a second life,” said Palmira Miller of PEC, who is helping organize the effort which will enable people in impoverished nations to wear the refurbished footwear.

As long as a shoe is only gently worn, it will be accepted or as Miller says: “If it goes on a foot, we will take it as long as it can be used again.”

PEC is hoping to collect 7,500 pairs of shoes by Dec. 10, according to Miller. The venture is being done through the PEC’s Keep Northeastern Pennsylvania Beautiful campaign. Funds raised from this project will help support the implementation of a variety of Keep America Beautiful programs, including special collection and recycling events, litter clean ups and community beautification projects.

All shoes will be redistributed to small business partners through Funds2Orgs.

“The shoe recycling was the first that I have ever seen,” Havey said. “When I heard about it, I took advantage of it. People have tons of shoes that go in the garbage. Why not recycle them, turn them into something else and feel good about it? It’s better than putting them in a landfill where they will sit forever.”

Miller said many people are unaware that shoes can be recycled. She said the organization will train people in those nations how to refurbish the shoes so they can be reworn.

“Everyone has a pile of shoes in their closet that they don’t wear,” Miller said. “We had a lot of parents bring in shoes that their children have outgrown.”

PEC has reached out to the community by bringing schools, churches and businesses together to organize collection drives. The SADD program at GAR High School is collecting footwear. Bins have been placed in various communities. “We have found that the in-house collection drives are a great and easy way to collect shoes,” Miller said. “We encourage people to bring their shoes to work.”

This is the first year of the Keep Northeastern Pennsylvania Beautiful campaign. The group recently received certification from the state and has partnered with Luzerne County Community College and Newport Township.

The shoe drive also serves to remind residents about the importance of recycling, Miller said. “Many people just toss out shoes and other items like electronics to the curbside where it gets thrown in the landfill,” she said. “Our landfills are too full of things that can be recycled. We hope this effort makes more people aware of just what can be recycled.”

“I try my very best to recycle everything,” Havey said. “I feel that this is one thing I could give back to the environment. After all, God only gave us one earth. I wish that more people would realize this.”

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