What happens to a boot discarded? Does it dry up in an airtight landfill? Or fester like a sore as pollution in the Great Pacific Gyre? Most footwear today — once no longer resole-able or patch-up-able — ends up in the landfill. But Timberland’s just come out with a new, greener boot for outdoorsy environmentalists — that’s made to be disassembled and recycled!

Timberland fans already know about the company’s Earthkeepers collection, which incorporates green materials. Now, the company’s paying more attention to the end of their shoes’ life. The latest addition to the Earthkeepers line — the Earthkeepers 2.0 men’s boot –  sports organic cotton shoelaces, a 42 percent recycled rubber outsole, and leather from greener tanneries. Plus, the boot’s 80 percent recyclable!

EK 2.0 (2) by you.

No, this isn’t one of those totally greenwashed marketing ploys that promote potential recyclability — while providing no means for people to actually make sure an item gets recycled. All Earthkeepers 2.0 wearers have to do once the boot gets worn out is to return the shoe to a Timberland store.

Once returned, Timberland will take the shoe apart. The “Green Rubber” soles are then sent to a factory in Georgia to be made into new Timberland shoe outsoles. The leather’s sent to the Dominican Republic to be refurbished. And the metal hardware’s either unscrewed and reused in new footwear, or recycled. And the polyester lining’s chemically recycled into new polyester products through Teijin in Japan.

The Earthkeepers 2.0 boot’s available for men in burnished black or brown for $160 a pair. That price tag’s comparable to other Timberland footwear — but if it’s pricy for you, remember buying quality shoes and taking care of them to make sure they last is both more economical than going through a bunch of cheapo shoes. Plus, wearing shoes for a long time’s about the most eco-friendly footwear choice you can make. Even with eco-materials and an eco end-of-life recycling program, making and recycling shoes are processes with a not-inconsiderable footprint — as evidenced by all the miles your Earthkeepers 2.0 boot would travel (Georgia, Dominican Republic, and Japan — before the materials are sent on somewhere else to be reused or reassembled) to complete the recycling process.

Timberland plans to make more of their Earthkeepers shoes recyclable. Look out for men’s Earthkeepers 2.0 boat shoes and women’s Earthkeepers 2.0 sandals in Spring 2010!