The process chain for a shoe recycling programme led by Sport Singapore (SportSG) and Dow has been tightened after a Reuters investigation tracked some pairs of donated shoes to a secondhand shoe shop in Indonesia where they were put up for sale. Measures such as only appointing only contractors and subcontractors that are not involved in the secondhand trading of textiles or shoes are part of the rectification of this incident.
According to Channel News Asia (CNA), Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong noted that the services of a subcontractor, Yok Impex, were terminated after an investigation into the issues raised. Tong was speaking at parliament on Monday after questions were raised about the issue. Yok Impex reportedly had been engaged by waste collector Alba-WH, one of the project partners, to help with collecting donated shoes directly from recycling bins around Singapore.
The bins were then sorted at Yok Impex's center before being sent to Alba-WH to be weighed and registered. They were then routed to a grinding facility managed by BT Sports. The facility is able to grind recycled shoes into granules that can then be used as building materials, according to media reports.
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According to Tong, the investigation found that Yok Impex did not properly segregate its recycling bins which resulted in some shoes being exported to other countries for resale rather than being recycled. Alba-WH has since terminated the services of Yok Impex, according to Tong. He added that in order to tighten the process chain, only contractors and subcontractors who are not involved in the secondhand trading of textiles or shoes will be appointed moving forward.
Tong added that otherwise, the project has been going as planned with 10,000kg of shoes being processed and used for the running track at Kallang Football Hub and a jogging trail in Jurong Town that is still under construction. There are plans to use more granules in sports centers in Serangoon, Bukit Canberra and Punggol, as well as in jogging tracks, fitness corners and playgrounds around Singapore.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE has reached out to SportSG for a comment.
Tong's comments come after SportSG and its partners in a shoe recycling project issued a joint apology following an investigation by Reuters that revealed that old sneakers meant to be recycled for use in the building of running tracks and playgrounds in Singapore ended up being sold in a shop in Indonesia. For the recycling project, SportSG worked with sporting goods retailer Decathlon, chemical company Dow, Standard Chartered bank, surface solutions firm B.T. Sports and local waste management company Alba-WH. Under the initiative, the public were encouraged to donate and recycle their sports shoes at 100 collection points islandwide from July 5 last year.
The initiative aimed to collect and recycle 170,000 pairs of shoes annually to be used as infrastructure materials for sports facilities. However, Reuters decided to hide a tracking device in one of the donated shoes and followed the sounds of the tracker right to a mound of old sneakers in a second-hand shoe store in Indonesia.
When MARKETING-INTERACTIVE reached out, SportSG confirmed that the project partners of the shoe recycling programme were first informed about Reuter’s observations in January 2023. “Upon being told, an investigation led by Alba-WH – the project’s collection partner in this programme - was commenced immediately to look into the issue. At the same time, measures were immediately taken by Alba-WH to tighten up the process chain in the interim,” a spokesperson said.
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