Old shoes have uses as raw material for certain industries. In many countries abroad and to some extent in the United States, they are collected with care, ripped apart and the leather subjected to treatment that renders it soft and makes it available for sundry purposes. Patterns are stamped upon it, trunks are covered with it, and it is also used for making shoes again. The soles are extensively used in making heels for ladies' and children's shoes. The nails also are saved and made profitable, and the useless scraps are converted into fertilizers.--From Good Housekeeping--
I guess we couldn't do something like this today because of all the manual labor it would take. The minimum wage and all sorts of regulations would make it impossible. How much recycling isn't done simply because regulations make it too expensive to be profitable?
Politicians say global warming is the biggest issue facing humanity, but they never act like it, except when it comes to raising taxes.