Dow Claimed to Be Recycling Used Sneakers; Reuters Used AirTags to Prove They Weren’t

Joe Brock, Yuddy Cahya Budiman, and Joseph Campbell, reporting for Reuters:

At a rundown market on the Indonesian island of Batam, a small location tracker was beeping from the back of a crumbling second-hand shoe store. A Reuters reporter followed the high-pitched ping to a mound of old sneakers and began digging through the pile.

There they were: a pair of blue Nike running shoes with a tracking device hidden in one of the soles.

These familiar shoes had traveled by land, then sea and crossed an international border to end up in this heap. They weren’t supposed to be here.

Five months earlier, in July 2022, Reuters had given the shoes to a recycling program spearheaded by the Singapore government and U.S. petrochemicals giant Dow Inc. In media releases and a promotional video posted online, that effort promised to harvest the rubberized soles and midsoles of donated shoes, then grind down the material for use in building new playgrounds and running tracks in Singapore.

Remarkable reporting by Reuters. After donating 11 pairs of sneakers (all of which contained hidden AirTags) at different drop-off spots in Indonesia, they flew all over Asia to track them down, and found most of them in used clothing stores. None of the 11 pairs were turned into exercise paths or playgrounds, as Dow claimed they would be. Not only is the whole greenwashing initiative by Dow an apparent scam, it’s illegal in Indonesia. And don’t miss the video — it’s really good, but, alas, ends a bit like Chinatown.

Great gumshoe reporting, in both the literal and figurative senses.

Thursday, 2 March 2023