Turning Your Sneaks into Playgrounds

General / People / Places / Products / August 17, 2011

There’s a certain symmetry to the idea:

For 20 years, Nike has been taking back its worn-out sneakers, ripping them apart, and recycling them for new kinds of outdoor uses.

Through a program called Nike Grind, the company estimates it’s found new life for upwards of 25 million pairs of athletic shoes.

“We’ve got a collection program through our retail stores, at Nike Town, and at colleges and municipalities too,” said Nike spokesperson Carol Klimas.  “We slice them into rubber outers, midsoles and fabric uppers.”

The company then seeks out high-value partners like Playtop to transform its raw recyclables into something transcendent.  The Wadsworth, Ohio firm specializes in turning Nike’s rubber into playgrounds, pool decks, back porches, walking tracks and trails.  Since 1977, Playtop estimates it’s recycled about 22 million square feet of rubber.

“We just used Nike Grind material – 4,440 pairs of shoes – plus 18,000 pounds of recycled tire rubber, for a Wisconsin daycare center’s 2,000-square-foot playground,” said Vince Garrett, director of business development at Playtop.

Surface thickness can range from 1 ½ to six inches, depending on the height of playground equipment.  The higher the monkey bars, the thicker the surface.  Costs can vary from $8 to 20 per square foot.

This is no cookie cutter operation.  Every project is different.  And Playtop’s customers can choose from a palette of 20 different colors, most of them bright and primary.

But that’s almost a moot point.  There’s the safety factor also:  “Severe head injuries for children decrease significantly” with the use of his surfaces, said Garrett.

And that, it seems, is where the rubber meets the road.

For more on Nike Grind, go to http://www.nikereuseashoe.com/using-nike-grind

For more on Playtop, go to http://www.playtop.com/global/page.asp?node=656

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Mike Welton

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