It is rare that Tyre and Rubber Recycling makes political comment, but when Nike announced the suspension of its trainer recycling programme in the UK, we could not help but get a sense of: “We told you so.”
Nike Suspends Recycling Programme in the UK
When the UK opted to leave the EU, Tyre and Rubber Recycling predicted that there could be issues for the waste industry if they were exporting to Europe, possibly even those temporarily exporting through Rotterdam or Antwerp.
In a way, the prediction has come true, in that the tariffs on waste imports into Europe and the shortage of HGV drivers in the UK has created a bit of a storm for Nike.
The shoe manufacturer had made much of its recycling programme, customers were encouraged to return their used shoes to Nike drop off points and the company would have them recycled – which is no mean feat as they are complex products with several different materials, adhesives and colorants included. It is a commendable scheme.
The fly in the ointment is the fact that recycling is done in Belgium. Getting waste from the UK to Belgium incurs tariffs that make recycling more expensive. Combine that with the UK shortage of lorry drivers and the rising cost of fuel (the latter not a Brexit-induced issue), and the company faces a perfect recycling storm.
It has currently suspended its trainer recycling scheme in the UK.
Of course, the tariff issue could simply be addressed by increasing prices in the UK market but that would make the company less competitive and give an advantage to others who do not recycle.
A spokesperson for the company said in a statement: “We can confirm Nike’s Reuse-a-Shoe programme is not currently available in the UK.
“Nike offers our recycling and donation programme in 22 markets across the Europe, Middle East and Africa region, where consumers can have a positive impact on our planet and their communities by dropping off gently worn footwear and apparel at participating local Nike stores for recycling or donation.”
Simon Ellin, chief executive of the Recycling Association, told the Guardian that the industry was experiencing a number of issues related to Brexit.
With the national HGV driver shortage hitting multiple industries and the increase in export costs, Ellin said: “Brexit has brought huge challenges for our industry, not least the mountain of expensive red tape we now need to enable us to export recycled materials on to the continent for reprocessing.
“Brexit has also meant we have had to change our trading terms with our European partners for VAT purposes. This has proved challenging, but it has been very encouraging that most of our European outlets have engaged with us to find a workable system. We now just regard it as the new norm.”
Customers can still recycle their old shoes, but they need to bag them up and carry the cost of posting them to the recycler in Belgium.