Launched with much fanfare in 2020, a recycling campaign led by government agency Sport Singapore (SportSG) and US petrochemicals giant Dow has become an example of what can go wrong when it involves many actors and insufficient oversight. And the end result is the risk that the public is left feeling let down and wary of government and corporate-led initiatives that tackle climate change and waste materials from consumer lifestyles.
The idea was simple enough. The public would drop off their used running shoes at collection points across the island. The shoes would be recycled by shredding them into rubber granules and materials, which would be used to make new playgrounds and running tracks. The public duly answered the call, donating thousands of old shoes. The programme helped to address a major challenge facing Singapore and many other big cities: the growing volumes of plastic and textile waste – very little of which is recycled here. But a Reuters investigation showed that some of the shoes were not recycled but shipped overseas and resold as second-hand goods, highlighting a lack of oversight and tarnishing the image of the campaign and the partners involved.