Okabashi Closes the Loop on Sandal Recycling

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Okabashi’s line of sandals and flip-flops not only contain up to 25 percent recycled plastic, but can be returned to the company for recycling at the end of their useful lives. Photo: Okabashi

Shoes made from recycled materials are not a new green fashion trend: New Balance, Puma and even Manolo Blahnik have all turned waste into new kicks.

But Georgia-based Okabashi goes a step further: Not only are its sandals and flip-flops made from recycled plastic, but the company also takes back its old shoes for recycling at the end of their useful lives.

Okabashi’s line of sandals, which comes in an assortment of styles and colors, are molded from a blend of plastics called Microplast, making them vegan-friendly. While the amount of recycled content in each shoe depends on the material available, an average pair of Okabashi sandals contains 15-25 percent recycled plastic.

When customers are ready to retire a pair of well-worn Okabashis, they can mail their shoes back to the company’s Buford, Ga. factory and receive a coupon for their next purchase. Okabashi’s team cleans the old shoes, grinds them down and blends the recycled plastic pieces with new plastic. The workers then remold the plastic mixture to produce a new pair of sandals, achieving a closed-loop recycling process.

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The company also incorporates the plastic scraps leftover from production into the plastic mixture to make new shoes, making their manufacturing process virtually waste-free. The 2 percent of re-ground material that Okabashi can’t recycle in its factory is sent to a partner company to be made into other plastic products.

According to Okabashi, the company recycled over 100,000 pounds of plastic last year, diverting 10 tractor trailers full of waste from landfills.

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Priced at $20 or less, each Okabashi sandal is designed for optimal comfort, featuring a massaging insole, arch support and ergonomic foot beds.

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