"Cut the Crap!"

Footwear Waste Management Systems


Laces of recycled PET... soles of corn... uppers of ocean plastics... which option is more sustainable? 


The answers to such questions largely depend on what happens to the shoes after the consumer throws them away and they end up in the waste stream. The end of a product's lifecycle is not clear to most shoe companies since it happens out of their sight. Often companies feel they can not influence this post-consumer waste process anyway because they are not responsible for it. Is that true though?


This course helps footwear companies understand how they can:

  • identify and keep track of waste streams in their company
  • develop shoe collections that cause as little waste as possible in all stages of their life cycle
  • make sure their shoes have the smallest possible footprint when they end up in the current post-consumer waste systems
  • tell engaging true stories that are not just 'greenwashing'
  • change their waste streams into value streams
  • potentially create their own circular systems for collecting and handling post-consumer footwear waste, collaborating with other companies, both inside and outside the footwear industry



Course format:

This course is meant for participants that work on a senior management level for medium to large multi-national footwear companies, such as VPs of product, design directors, innovation and R&D managers, CSR managers or head buyers. You either work for a brand, a manufacturer, footwear material supplier or on the retail side. It is also highly suitable for university faculty that need to teach and/or research sustainable practices within the fashion and footwear industries.


The intensive 5-day course week consists of a combination of classes, excursions, lectures, brainstorms and private consulting. It is led by Nicoline van Enter, renowned footwear innovation expert and founder of The Footwearists, and Sanne van den Dungen, consultant at EPEA, the world famous company of Michael Braungart, one the writers of the book Cradle to Cradle®. She is also head of R&D at circular jeans label HNST and Director of Sustainability at Indian hybrid NGO-Social Enterprise Grameena Vikas Kendram working on regenerative organic cotton.

The course takes place in The Netherlands: the home base of The Footwearists and also one of the leading countries in Europe when it comes to implementing a circular economy. It is no coincidence that the world's first fully circular footwear brand is based here!


We will stay in Amsterdam and Rotterdam and from there we will visit a wide range of companies, research institutes and other organisations that are pushing the boundaries of waste management, providing a detailed insight in current and future international waste systems. 


Each day will have a different focus, from smart collection management to all kinds of large-scale recycling, reuse and biofabrication. 


Each participant will finish the course with an in-depth understanding of footwear waste streams, including a clear and realistic roadmap towards the development and implementation of improved footwear waste systems for their company. 

Course program

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Opening dinner in Rotterdam

Monday, December 2 - kick-off about smart collection development

We kick-off the week in Blue City, a former tropical swimming paradise that has been turned into a fully circular town for start-ups, made in such a way that the waste streams of each company are used as a resource for the other companies. There is no waste. 

Here we will teach an introductory class about waste management in footwear, focusing on how to minimize waste through waste tracking and smart collection development.

In the afternoon we get a reality check on what currently happens to most footwear waste in Europe (and elsewhere), visiting one of the largest waste incineration plants of The Netherlands in the harbour of Rotterdam.


Tuesday, December 3 - industrial recycling systems

In the morning we tour Blue City and speak to several participating start-ups that are active in various segments of the fashion industry. In the afternoon we gain an in-depth understanding of how plastics - one of the main waste streams in footwear - can be recycled. We visit several facilities that recycle various kinds of plastics on a large scale or turn non-recyclable plastics into new raw resources, such as biofuels and other chemicals.

In the evening we have a special dinner session on how to handle leather in the waste stream, featuring several experts in this field.


Wednesday, December 4 - turning waste into wealth

In the morning we head to Amsterdam, visiting an advanced textiles recycling plant that also sorts and upgrades footwear waste. In the afternoon we gains insights from experts at Excess Materials Exchange, a global marketplace that turns waste streams into value streams, linking different industries together. Then continuing on to a curated visit of Peterson Stoop, a design collective that creates high-end footwear collections by upgrading worn sneakers.

Thursday, December 5 - circular footwear systems

This morning we visit Emma Safety Footwear in the south of the Netherlands, the first fully circular footwear brand in the world. They have developed their own system to collect and disassemble their shoes once they are discarded. Some of the waste is reused in their own footwear and the rest is sold to other industries. This is only a small part of an advanced circular system that they call The Positive Footprint. They are inviting other footwear companies to join this initiative.

In the afternoon we evaluate what we have learned so far and have a workshop to create a realistic roadmap for each participant towards the development and implementation of improved waste management systems.


Friday, December 6 - biodegradation, bioplastics and biofabrication

We see a sharp rise in materials that claim to be 'biodegradable', but it seems that few people in the footwear industry understand what that term actually means and whether biodegradation is already possible on an industrial scale for footwear materials. This is why we focus the final day on all things 'bio'. 

We start by visiting a state-of-the-art industrial composting and fermenting facility to understand how large-scale biodegradation works and which materials are suitable for it. Followed by an in-depth lecture on bioplastics, to help participants understand what these plastics really are and which of them are currently suitable for footwear. We will also dicuss certification of bioplastics and biodegradable materials.

In the afternoon we focus on the future of footwear materials and constructions with a workshop about biofabrication, presenting how materials and even entire products could eventually be grown in a lab, from mycelium and algae to lab-grown leather. We will also discuss when these technologies might be applied for mass manufacturing with several experts on the subject.


We will finish the day - and the course - with a spectacular closing dinner.

Course details

Level: Advanced. This course is meant for footwear professionals at a senior management level that already have knowledge of how shoes are manufactured

Language: all classes, lectures and company tours are in English

Maximum number of participants: 15

Dates: December 2-6, 2019

Location: various locations in The Netherlands

Course price: €4950 (excluding 21% VAT, if applicable. Price is to be paid in advance, 50% downpayment is required upon registration).

Included in the course price: hotel (5 nights, single room), breakfast, lunch and dinner for all course days, all transportation to and from course locations, all course material.

All travel is arranged by Kathleen Grevers, our global director for experiential learning and course travel programming, who will also be there each day to assist participants with any special travel needs. 

Not included in the course price: travel to The Netherlands and ground transportation to the hotel in Rotterdam (we suggest participants from overseas to travel to Schiphol Airport and take the 30-minute shuttle to Rotterdam)

Application: please apply by filling out the form below. 



Please fill out the form below to apply for this course. We will get back to you within 48 hours to let you know if your application has been accepted. There is a maximum of 15 participants for this course.

For any questions please email us at info@footwearists.com.