This Vancouver company is using its old shoes to make new playground flooring

Dec 10 2018, 9:22 pm

What started as an “internal homegrown project,” for local Vancouver company Native Shoes is set to become a public reality at an East Vancouver park next summer.

The initiative – dubbed The Remix Project – will see old shoes recycled, ground down, and used to make the flooring at China Creek Park’s new playground, which is expected to open next summer.

“One of our employees had this idea to be able to grind the shoes down…. and we had an ideation session of what we should do with the ground-down shoes,” explained Native Shoes President, Kyle Housmann.  “Another employee said what if we could put it into the flooring of a playground?”

The idea clicked.

“We liked the idea and declared that we want to build 30 of these playgrounds in five years,” Housmann told Daily Hive. “We went from there, researching with a chemist of how to rebound the product once it’s been ground down. Then, we started reaching out to flooring suppliers to see how we could use this material.”

The company also pitched their plan to the city and the Vancouver Park Board (VPB) who Housmann said was nothing but supportive of the proposal.

“The VPB was incredibly enthusiastic right off the bat and they helped us with the flooring supplier in terms of connecting those dots,” said Housmann. “They’ve been a great partner from the get-go, so there was really no hurdles on that side and we couldn’t be happier with their response.”

VPB chair Stuart Mackinnon said he was pleased to be working with Native Shoes on the new project.

“We’re very pleased to work with Native Shoes on this fun green initiative and perhaps see it expanded to other playgrounds across the city,” he said.

As for a project timeline, Housmann said his company is currently in the process of bringing in raw material from their customers, in the form of used shoes.

“The actual finish of this and the flooring itself will be through the spring,” he explained. “We’ve estimated that it takes about 10,000 shoes to build a playground.”

As for the cost of this initiative, Housmann said his company is taking on all of the costs of the grinding, cleaning, and providing that material to the flooring supplier.

The company said this new initiative is part of its declaration that every pair of Native Shoes will be 100% sustainably lifecycle managed by 2023.

“This was a way to complete a full circle of our product,” said Housmann. “Particularly when you consider that kids will inevitably grow out of – or wear out – a pair of shoes, and those wold shoes will need another home.”

Those who would like to participate in The Remix Project are encouraged to drop off their used Native shoes at the company’s flagship store, located at 14 Water Street, in Gastown.

Further updates and details on the project are available on the company’s website.

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Eric ZimmerEric Zimmer

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