An under recognized rubbish clearance problem has been the thousands of old uniforms that end up in our landfills. As they lay there in the layers of landfill rubbish, they decay slowly and exude greenhouse gases as they do. To give you an idea of just how massive this problem is, consider the fact that the Royal Mail Group (RMG) alone, constituting about one percent of the total UK workforce, requires 150,000 to 170,000 of their employees to wear uniforms!
Of course, both business and governmental entities require their employees wear compulsory uniforms. Therefore, there are literally millions of uniforms coming to the end of their lifecycle in the UK each year! Luckily, we have citizens and organizations that are taking steps to intervene and ensure these old uniforms do not end up in the company rubbish clearance bins!
Formed in 2008, Uniform Reuse is a group that helps businesses and other organizations find a better fate for their old uniforms than the rubbish clearance bins. Uniform Reuse works closely with the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP), an initiative of The Waste and Resources Action Programme, better known as WRAP, a UK charity dedicated to working with government, business, and people to save our resources. They encourage all to move toward a “circular economy” where the resources used to create products are put back into the system at the end of the lifecycle of those products so new resources are not needed to keep producing the same products.
Uniform Reuse works with uniform manufacturers, business who purchase uniforms, and the reprocessors of old uniforms. The idea is to improve the situation along every step of the entire lifecycle of a uniform. So, for example, uniform manufacturers may be advised to switch to a different combination of fibers in creating their uniform fabrics. This is because it is much harder to recycle certain combinations of clothing fibers than others. The type of patch used on uniforms also becomes an issue in recycling. Businesses who purchase uniforms are encouraged to ask good questions about their uniforms before they make purchases. Since they order such a high volume, their concerns carry a lot of weight in how uniform manufacturers design all their uniforms for all businesses.
There have been some tremendous successes in just a few years as Uniform Reuse and SCAP have gotten involved in this previously overlooked important landfill issue. Literally, millions of uniforms have been diverted from rubbish clearance bins and landfills as a result of their dedicated work. Luckily, the Royal Mail Group (RMG), as discussed above, has been inspired to have a central sorting and processing facility for old uniforms to make them more easily recycled. Other examples of the influence of Uniform Reuse and SCAP are covered below.
Klopman International, Europe’s leading textile manufacturer of cotton and polyester and cotton blended fabrics, has been convinced that the end of life characteristics of corporate wear is so important, they have moved toward an eco standard. In fact, they received the very first European Union Ecolabel for these efforts. They’ve also become Öeko-Tex Standard 100 accredited which means their textiles do not contain harmful substances like formaldehyde, cadmium, and phenols that are sometimes found in uniforms. This makes recycling easier and ensures these harmful substances don’t enter our ecosystem via our rubbish clearance!
Uniform Reuse and SCAP has had major influence on the reprocessor end of uniforms too. For example, they have worked with Eurostar to reuse their old uniforms to create travel related popular products such as commuter bags, laptop cases, and wallets for travel cards and other business cards. In this way, their uniforms are not only recycled but actually UPCYCLED into products with a longer lifecycle than the average uniform and often with a higher perceived value by the owner.
If you have an old uniform that you no longer want, instead of just binning it, you may want to call Clearabee to pick up the uniform and any other old clothing you want to discard. The councils have not yet been successful at diverting clothing or uniforms from our landfills. On the other hand, Clearabee, an on demand private rubbish clearance company, has an excellent track record in this regard. Give them a call and let them know what you have. They can explain how they are able to get old uniforms and clothing to places that will recycle the materials instead of sending them to the landfill.