Footwear with a Past

Company Recycles Shoes

Incorporating such diverse items as coffee filters, old tires and plastic left over from the production of disposable diapers, an Oregon company has created a walking shoe made entirely of recycled materials.

Julie Lewis, founder of DejaShoes, says the shoe meets all the technical qualifications of a good walking shoe, including a beveled heel, arch support and padding in the tongue and collar for comfort.

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While researching an article for a local recycling group, Lewis learned of a woman who wove plastic bags into braided throw rugs. That concept got her thinking about using a similar weave as the upper portion of a revolutionary new shoe — a recycled shoe.

However, Lewis said when she contacted several textile mills in the South about using recycled plastic, they told her to forget it. Undaunted, she looked up one of the founders of Nike athletic shoes in the Portland phone book and called him at home.

Nike’s Bill Bowerman agreed to meet and discuss the idea with her, she said. Soon, help was on the way. He had Lewis call one of the Nike’s fabric distributors, who then contacted the textile mills. This time, the mills got excited about the idea.

Lewis proceeded to research which recycled materials could be used for each component of her shoe. DejaShoe’s fabric uses trim waste from the manufacture of hospital gowns and disposable diapers — material that would eventually end up filling landfills. The inner soles are made from recycled coffee filters and paper bags.

Cushioning in the shoe’s arch, collar and tongue consists of recycled foam rubber. The soles, which don’t mark up floors, come from reclaimed tire rubber and last much longer than other types of soling material, she said. The eyelets, as well, are made from scrap metals.

Even the box the shoes are packaged in follows the theme. Made from recycled material, the box reverses — revealing pictures of endangered animals — so it can be reused as a gift box or storage container.

“I’m helping to set an example for industry by showing them that with a little creativity, they can reuse some of their waste materials and lessen their impact on the environment,” Lewis said. “And I’m also proving that consumers want them to do this and are interested in these kinds of products.”

The first run of DejaShoes has come off the production line, and a second run is being prepared. Lewis has enlisted the help of several ex-executives of the Avia shoe company as her business continues to grow. Nordstroms, a retail store chain based in the Northwest, wants to start a men’s line of DejaShoes, she added.

For more information or to order a pair of DejaShoes, write to P.O. Box 830, Lake Oswego, OR 97034. Or call (503) 636-1887.

Earth Tip: The Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail, running through Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee, attracts more than 10 million hikers each year.

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