New York Startup Thousand Fell Creates World’s First 100% Recyclable Sneaker

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Based in New York, Thousand Fell is a two-year-old sustainable footwear brand that is on a mission to close the loop in the sneaker industry. The brand, self-described as “beyond sustainable” has created the world’s first completely recyclable shoe, which is made from biodegradable, recycled waste and plant-based materials. What’s more? To take their circular efforts even further, Thousand Fell offers gift cards to customers who hand in their old sneakers, which are then refurbished and given to underprivileged communities, or taken apart and upcycled into new sneakers. 

While sustainable fashion has never been more popular, the eco sneaker segment has been rising up to steal the show, from Pangaia’s vegan leather shoes made from upcycled grape skins to carbon-neutral bamboo knit kicks made by Cariuma. The latest to make headlines is Thousand Fell, a New York startup that is taking its sneakers to a level “beyond sustainable”. 

Motivated to change the wasteful reality of the shoe industry that sees 97% of every pair purchased end up in landfills, the brand has created a line of sneakers that are made from materials that can be 100% recycled. Some of the core materials in their shoes are already recycled or upcycled in origin, such as plastic waste and recycled rubber sourced from a net-zero supplier, while others are completely natural and biodegradable, such as aloe vera, coconut husks, sugar cane and palm leaf fibres. 

“Each pair combines thoughtful design with modern and sustainably sourced materials, making them durable, comfortable, and recyclable. Our products are made to last – and built to recycle,” said the brand on its website.

Coating the sneakers is a bio-based resin made from corn waste, while castor bean oil is used to cushion the foam and a natural quartz barrier provides its stain-proof and water-resistant quality. All these characteristics additionally means that Thousand Fells’ sneakers are super durable – lasting more than 2.4 million steps, to be exact. 

Further testament to their commitment to sustainability is their recycling program, which accepts your old pairs of shoes in exchange for a US$20 gift card. Taking old sneakers in, Thousand Fell then either restores and refurbishes them to be given to the needy in partnership with nonprofit Soles4Souls, or breaks down shoes that are too old to be reworn into materials that can be reintroduced into the fashion supply chain. 

Each pair combines thoughtful design with modern and sustainably sourced materials, making them durable, comfortable, and recyclable. Our products are made to last – and built to recycle.

Thousand Fell

Looking ahead, the startup says that they are planning to come up with ways for their customers to track and see where their old sneakers go and offering full transparency of their circular operations. “Our mission is to show you where the materials in your sneakers go — and we are launching a platform so you can track that journey,” said the brand.

With independent eco footwear brands gaining greater traction in recent years, it’s become clear to mainstream players that they must also incorporate circularity into their designs to stay in the game. The likes of Adidas, Reebok and Nike, for instance, have been one after another churning out their own plant-based, vegan-friendly and recycled designs in the last months. 

All images courtesy of Thousand Fell.


  • Sally Ho

    Sally Ho is Green Queen's former resident writer and lead reporter. Passionate about the environment, social issues and health, she is always looking into the latest climate stories in Hong Kong and beyond. A long-time vegan, she also hopes to promote healthy and plant-based lifestyle choices in Asia. Sally has a background in Politics and International Relations from her studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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