Merrell ReTread shoe recycling initative
(Image/Merrell)

Upcycle, Recycle Your Shoes: Merrell Launches ‘ReTread’

Merrell says its reclamation program could prevent 600,000 shoes from going in the trash by 2025.

Merrell just kicked off an ambitious, broad-sweeping sustainability platform called This Is Home. The brand claims the project will be a vessel for ecologically focused programs in the coming weeks, months, and years.

The platform’s pilot program, Merrell ReTread, is a shoe takeback and recycling initiative.

The shoemaker tapped closed-loop company ReCircled to help out. Founded in 2019, ReCircled provides footwear and apparel brands with upcycling/recycling services for used gear. It also provides a proprietary digital portal that administers the gear takeback process where consumers can initiate used item returns.

To inspire consumer action, Merrell offers some kickbacks. First, it will foot the shipping cost by supplying free return labels. To sweeten the deal, each participant will receive a store credit of $20 once a partnering ReCircled processing center receives their shipment.

Merrell ReTread: Circular Shoe Economy

Although pairing circular economics with consumer incentives isn’t exactly a new concept (take Patagonia’s Worn Wear program, for example), the approach Merrell outlined appears more comprehensive.

For one, the brand sets it up to provide a proper, no-holds-barred takeback service, which means it will accept used Merrell shoes regardless of their condition.

Once the ReCircled center receives and analyzes a used pair of shoes, one of three outcomes will follow: 1) staff will repair and refurbish the shoes for resale, 2) ReTread will upcycle them into new Merrell products, or 3) the shoes will be recycled to serve other purposes.

Merrell ‘This Is Home’ Sustainability Commitment

“The role of This is Home is to ignite our emotional connection to the outdoor environments around us by encouraging people to deepen their experiences locally,” said Chris Hufnagel, Merrell’s brand president.

“The Merrell ReTread program is a firm step in our sustainable commitment, enabling us to extend the life of our Merrell footwear and giving people more options to minimize their environmental footprint.”

In addition to keeping 300,000 pairs of shoes out of landfills through the ReTread reclamation program, Merrell committed to achieving or exceeding the following sustainability goals by 2025 through the This Is Home platform:

  • 100% of products will contain organic, recycled, or renewable materials
  • 100% responsibly sourced apparel materials
  • Reduce shoe and apparel samples by 50%
  • Reduce plastic packaging
  • Complete 10,000 volunteer hours

Merrell ReTread is live now at retread.merrell.com. To learn more about this and upcoming initiatives, visit merrell.com/thisishome.

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Jilli Cluff
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Jilli grew up in the rural southern Colorado mountains, later moving to Texas for college. After seven years in corporate consulting, she was introduced to sport climbing — and life would never be the same. She now works as a contributor, gear tester, and editor for GearJunkie and other outlets within the AllGear family. She is based out of Atlanta, Georgia where she takes up residence with her climbing gear and one-eared blue heeler, George Michael.