Alumni Chain

Why giving stuff a new life is a new business opportunity

Millions of sneakers are thrown away each year, and some of them are never worn once. Pim Roggeveen (BSc Communication and Media) teamed up with his friend to do something about it.

For Pim and business partner Lorenzo it just didn’t make sense. They were and are passionate sneaker fans, but the growing trash heap caused by their favourite industry was starting to concern them deeply.

“The issue is not whether shoes are being thrown away,” says Roggeveen. Certainly in the Netherlands and everywhere else in the world, millions of perfectly good shoes are just thrown away by customers, stores and factories. But in the middle of this crisis, they saw an opportunity: “The real question is how can we make them ready for sale again?”

That’s the mission of WEAR, the social enterprise they founded together – turning discarded sneakers back into useful – and profitable – shoes.

The team start by taking discarded sneakers in bulk from street collection bins, charities and waste processors. Then at the WEAR workshop, they are scrubbed, steamed, repaired and prepared for a new owner.

The mission doesn’t just save the trainers that were already thrown away – anybody can bring a pair of sneakers to WEAR, or even sign up for an annual plan to regularly refresh and repair their running shoes.

Sneakers need to be treated individually by hand because each one is unique and made from different materials.

Their team of sneaker cleaners are young people who can’t find work elsewhere in the labour market, and a social element of the business is the way it offers a training programme to their staff to help them move on to their next role.

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