Nike Refurbished: Shoe giant launches new service to help combat waste

The service is being piloted at 15 US Nike stores initially. Image: Nike 

Called ‘Nike Refurbished’, the service has been made available at 15 stores in the US in the first instance and will be rolled out at other locations in the coming months.

Under the services, customers can return Nike shoes within 60 days of purchase and have their footwear sent to a specialist team. The staff here inspect and grade the shoes before refurbishing them by hand. Shoes eligible for the service will be graded in three tiers: “like new”, “gently worn” or “cosmetically flawed”. The first two tiers refer to customer use while the third covers shoes whereby a cosmetic flaw was created in the manufacturing process.

Refurbished shoes will be placed on sale again at a lower price point than brand-new pairs. The original customer, meanwhile, will get a refund. Stores selling refurbished shoes now include locations in California, Nebraska, Florida, South Carolina, Oregon and Tennessee.

Nike has pledged not to send shoes that cannot be refurbished to landfill or incineration. Footwear that does not meet one of the three eligible grades will be mechanically recycled to create ‘Nike Grind’ – a material used to create products including new shoes, foam and sports flooring.

As good as shoe

The fashion industry is regarded as one of the world’s most wasteful. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates that a bin lorry of textiles is wasted globally every second, largely due to a massive increase in production in recent decades and a lack of commercially available recycling processes.

Problems with footwear recycling include the multi-material nature of most shoes, with trainers especially often containing different materials held together with chemical-heavy and hard-to-recycle glue. The UK’s annual shoe reuse and recycling rate stands at around 15%. Globally, it is estimated that 300 million pairs end up in landfill every year.

The good news is that resale and refurbishment models are becoming increasingly popular with brands. New announcements have been made by the likes of VivoBarefoot, Farfetch and Selfridges recently.  

Moreover, some brands are increasingly designing shoes for both durability and recyclability, including Timberland, Adidas, UGG and Clarks.

These approaches are clearly appealing to shoppers as public awareness of environmental issues increases. The global fashion resale market is set to grow to $64bn by 2024, expanding 1.5 times quicker than the fast fashion sector.

Sarah George

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