I’ve written before about the problems with waste in children’s clothing manufacturing, and about various methods used to try to minimize that problem.
Don’t all clothes generate waste in manufacturing? Yes, there’s always going to be waste, as cloth isn’t manufactured in dress-shaped pieces. It comes in rolls, and after you cut out the parts that you need, other parts are going to be discarded. That’s true of all kinds of clothing.
Children’s clothing is slightly different, however, as children tend to go through a lot more clothes than adults do. You might buy a pair of jeans or a dress and wear it for years. Children can go through clothes in only a month or two, and while there are ways of recycling children’s clothing, such as handing it down to friends or reselling it, a surprisingly large amount of children’s clothing ends up in the landfill before it is completely worn out.
While there have been some interesting attempts to create clothes that grow with your children, there is another area of clothing that has yet to see this sort of activity – shoes.
Shoes create a lot of waste, and at some points in their lives, children’s feet can grow a half a size every three months. That means that your children might be going through four or five pairs of just one kind of shoes every year. Even with the best attempts to recycle, a lot of these shoes are going to end up in the trash before their time.
An experimental project in Britain called Shoey Shoes is trying to solve that problem. With this still-in-development business model, you wouldn’t buy shoes for your children. Instead, you would lease them on a subscription basis.
The company would send shoes to you and when your child outgrew them, you would simply send them back and they’d send you new ones. What happens to the old ones? They are disassembled at the factory. Worn parts are discarded, and good parts are reused to make new shoes, which are then sent out to the subscribers that need them in that particular size.
It’s an interesting idea that still has a few bugs in it. One of the biggest problems is that the adhesive used to assemble Shoey Shoes isn’t waterproof. That is intentional, as it makes it a lot easier (or even possible) for the factory to disassemble the shoes once they are returned to them. Shoes made with a waterproof adhesive might not be able to be taken apart.
The problem with this, of course, is that there’s no way to guarantee that your child isn’t going to get their feet wet every now and again. That’s just the nature of children; they do what they want a good portion of the time and it’s possible that if they get their feet wet while wearing Shoey Shoes, the shoes might fall apart.
Founder Thomas Leech still supports the business model and he is comfortable that they will soon work out a solution that will make the product a viable one. As someone who buys a lot more shoes for her daughter than she’d like to, I support him completely and wish him well.