Singapore to tighten shoe recycling controls after Reuters report

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[March 20, 2023]  SINGAPORE (Reuters) - A Singapore shoe recycling project will be subject to surprise inspections following a Reuters investigation that found footwear it donated to the scheme was not recycled, Singapore's minister of culture said on Monday.

Reuters reporter Joe Brock holds a child's shoe next to rubber he removed from the shoe's sole, at the Reuters office in Singapore, September 7, 2022. Joseph Campbell

U.S. petrochemicals giant Dow Inc and Sport Singapore, a government agency, had pledged that the shoes would be ground down to make playgrounds and running tracks.

The investigation, using location trackers hidden inside the soles of shoes, found sneakers donated by Reuters in Singapore had instead been exported to Indonesia for resale.

That also contravened a 2015 ban by Indonesia on such practices which was put in place for hygiene purposes and to protect its local textile industry.

Presented with Reuters findings, Dow and Sport Singapore opened an investigation and later terminated the contract of Yok Impex, a local textile exporter that was subcontracted to collect shoes from donation bins.

They issued a statement after the publication of the Feb. 25 story apologising to the public for a "lapse" in its recycling supply chain.

"What resulted, as far as we can tell, from the investigation ... came from a lax system," Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong said, responding to questions in parliament.

He added that in addition to unannounced inspections for contractors hired to collect the shoes, companies that export textiles or footwear will not be employed again.

"The project partners have taken steps to tighten the process chain," Tong said, adding that learning points would be shared with other recycling projects in Singapore.

Indonesia also said this month it would tighten customs checks at small ports to crack down on the illegal import of second-hand shoes as a result of Reuters' findings.

(Reporting by Joe Brock; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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