Government agency Sport Singapore (SportSG) and its project partners in a shoe-recycling project have issued an apology to the public after an investigation by global news agency Reuters discovered that recycled shoes meant for building playgrounds and running tracks ended up going on sale in Indonesia.
The Reuters report was made public in a video posted on 25 February.
The project was launched by chemical company Dow in September 2020, with the project aiming to upcycle 300,000 pairs of shoes contributed by members of the public for use as materials for building jogging tracks, fitness areas and playgrounds.
Unfortunately, some of the shoes ended up at an Indonesian flea market.
The project’s partners included Decathlon, Dow, Standard Chartered bank, surface solutions firm B.T. Sports and local waste management company Alba-WH.
In a joint media statement which was issued to media through SportSG, the partners said that the project partners of the shoe recycling programme were first informed about Reuters’ 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.”
SportSG said that the investigations were completed on 31 January 2023, and it showed that there “were vulnerabilities in the process chain with Alba-WH’s subcontractor”, which led directly to the collected shoes not being sent for recycling.
The Reuters report had indicated that the collected shoes from the bins in selected parts of Singapore landed at a company known as Yok Impex, which is an aggregator for recyclables and reusables, in January 2022.
Reuters had said in its report that its journalists had donated 11 pairs of shoes at different locations and tracked them over six months.
“These collection bins were then aggregated and sorted at Yok Impex’s premises before being sent to Alba-WH’s warehouse for registering and weighing, after which the shoes would be subsequently delivered to the B.T. Sports grinding facility to convert the shoes to granules for use as building materials,” said SportSG.
In the video story posted by Reuters, a Yok Impex spokesperson went on camera and said that it was probably a mistake that the shoes landed up being sold in Indonesia.
“The findings had confirmed that the supply chain was compromised at Yok Impex’s premises where the aggregation of the shoe bins in parallel with Yok Impex’s sorting activities resulted in some shoes being extracted for resale instead of recycling,” said SportSG.
SportSG said in its statement that the shoes tagged by Reuters were extracted from the programme’s recycling bins at Yok Impex’s premises for reuse and exported to other countries.
“The project partners do not condone any unauthorised removal or export of shoes collected through this programme,” said SportSG, which added that collection bins have since not been sent to Yok Impex premises.
“The project partners sincerely apologise to the public for this lapse,” said SportSG.
SportSG added that to date, 10,000kg of used shoes have been recycled into infrastructure such as Kallang Football Hub and a sport facility under construction in Jurong Town.
See full statement by SportSG below.
MAIN PHOTO: REUTERS