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By Sandy Bauers - Philadelphia Inquirer

Shoe waste is a terrible thing. - All those feet in the world, needing protection, and we often just toss our old ones.

There are, of course, thrift stores that take donations of second-hand shoes. But now a Georgia company has come up with recyclable shoes.

The shoes are Okabashi Brands, a family-owned business based in Buford, Ga., 35 miles north of Atlanta. For about 25 years, as they focused on designing and manufacturing comfortable shoes, they also worked on coming up with a material that is durable and recyclable.

They've come up with a line of flip-flops, slides, clogs and other styles. The shoe is made of up to 30 percent recycled materials, which for now are old Okabashi shoes that customers have sent back when they're worn out.

Don't want to send them back? They're made of No. 3 plastic, which means that in most of this area, they can also be put into the curbside bin. (To be sure, check here:

Other companies have done similar things. Nike has a program, and their shoes get ground up and become everything from sneaker soles to running tracks to "the zipper on your hoodie," the company says. But I haven't found any that take their shoe back and make it into the same shoe.

Okabashi is working on ways to take back and recycle all kinds of shoes, from red patent-leather spike heels to work boots. Obviously, with the range of materials involved and the company's "virtually" zero waste policy - which means they have to somehow use all the sent-back shoes, and not just some of the parts - this is a tad more complicated.

"It is Okabashi's objective to limit the amount of shoes and waste being dumped into the earth's oceans and landfills and to continually decrease our use of natural resources," the company states. "This year alone we were able to reintroduce and reuse over 100,000 lbs of scrap shoes. That is 10 tractor trailers full of scrap that would have otherwise been sent to a landfill."

Since they're made in Georgia, they don't have to cross an ocean to get to you.

I thought the shoes looked attractive. The company boasts superior arch support, a massaging insole and more. They're also "vegan friendly" and affordable: A pair I liked was on sale for $14.99.

View the company's site at