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JALAS and Rester Oy recycle safety shoes into textile fiber

The recycling industry has long tried to solve the problem of recycling textile waste back into fibers. Now the safety footwear brand JALAS has managed to recycle the uppers of safety shoes back into usable textile fiber. This is a unique development in sustainable innovation.

The recycling trial was done in cooperation with Rester Oy, a Finnish company providing textile recycling solutions. In Rester’s own facility, the discarded textiles are converted back into textile fiber — i.e., the raw material for new textile products — using a mechanical process.

Rester eagerly joined the pilot experiment despite its challenges: the construction and textiles used in safety footwear make them difficult to recycle — and there was no industry precedent in Finland for doing so.

The challenges with recycling safety shoes

For everyday (non-safety) footwear, there are many options for extending a shoe’s life. Used shoes can be resold, they can be repaired, or they can be refurbished with new uppers or new soles.

For safety footwear, the possibilities are more limited because safety shoes are certified safety products. The user must change shoes regularly to prevent their safety features from degrading.

Fun fact

Some of the workers at Rester Oy were actually wearing Exalter shoes. It was the first time they were recycling something that they were wearing.

Pilot experiment

JALAS decided to do a pilot experiment, in which we collected production waste from our factory in Finland, as well as surplus fabrics, to be recycled at the Rester facility. The goal of the experiment was to determine if the uppers of used safety footwear could be recycled back into textile fiber.

Successful experiment

The experiment was a success: JALAS personnel watched as the waste and surplus fabrics from the safety footwear manufacturing process were converted into usable textile fiber.
Another factor is that the recycling took place only 300 km from the JALAS factory. This means that the environmental impact from transport can be kept to a minimum.
The experiment is one part of JALAS long term activity plan to secure that we drive our sustainability agenda.
The next step is to find out what further use the fiber material is suitable for. This pilot experiment is a step forward towards sustainable development that reduces the load on the Earth and conserves natural resources in accordance with circular economy principles. In addition, creating value from waste can be part of a profitable business plan.

It’s amazing to be a pioneer as an experimenter of the possibilities of recycling discarded safety footwear, says Aino Aarnio-Juurinen, Innovation and Research Specialist at JALAS in Jokipii Finland.

Declaration of Sustainability

Sustainability is a natural and important part of our business. We believe in a long-term approach to business and a continuous reduction on the impact we have on our planet.

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