2 in 7 people in the UK wear a uniform. When these garments are no longer suitable, are damaged, or off-brand you may find them accumulating and taking up valuable storage space which leads to the question ‘How should I dispose of them?’ The number of different disposal options can be overwhelming, and often the environmental impact is an afterthought.
Everyone has a responsibility to ensure that when corporate uniform is disposed of, it is done so in the most ethically and environmentally responsible way possible. According to WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme), currently only 9% of corporate workwear is recovered for reuse. There are several opportunities to reduce the impact of the waste this creates, so we decided to run through the most environmentally beneficial options.
Last year an estimated 235 million items of clothing were sent to landfill by Britons. Often this is because many people don’t realise the opportunities available to them to recycle or donate instead. Companies have a responsibility to lead the way forward with this, helping clothing recycling to become as commonplace as paper and cardboard recycling. Where possible it’s best to avoid sending old uniforms to landfill, so don’t discard them with your general waste.
According to Hubbub, nearly 33 million corporate garments are provided each year and around 90% (or 15,000 tonnes) goes to landfill or incineration. This means it seriously contributes towards the release of harmful gases into the atmosphere and strongly demonstrates that resources are not being utilised effectively. Sending to landfill should therefore always be the last option when all other possibilities have been eliminated.
There are several ways in which corporate clothing garments can be repurposed and reused. For example, it can be cut up or shredded and used for cleaning rags or as noise-reducing insulation. Some organisations will actually upcycle old uniforms, adapting and deconstructing items to create brand new ones that are high quality once more and suitable for purpose.
If you are finding there is a large turnaround of uniform in your company, the ideal solution would be to work with a recycling company to set up a recycling programme, in which there are regular on-site collections. The individuals whose role it is to hand out new uniform should be responsible for creating a uniform recycling ‘bank’, where staff members can drop garments into and request a swap. This will actively deter them from throwing it in the general waste.
Alternatively, you can donate garments to a textile bank, where they will be broken up to determine what can be recycled and what can’t. Often it isn’t possible to recycle all the material due to the mix of the blend, so that’s something to bear in mind.
Working with charity
Donating uniforms to charity is a fantastic way to clear out your storage space. Unbranded garments that are in reasonable condition can be washed and donated for further use. As a result, you will be providing those who can’t afford new uniforms with an affordable solution and contributing money to a good cause.
Many of the big charities are happy to take clothing as long as it’s safe to use and not in a really poor condition. Some of these include British Heart Foundation, Red Cross and Cancer Research UK. Many will also encourage you to arrange a collection if you have a lot of items to donate. Alternatively you can find organisations that will distribute uniforms to volunteers and the homeless, or send to developing countries.
If you’re unsure of which route to go down, working alongside an environmentally focused charity to find the best solution could be an option. Hubbub is a charity that focuses on creating environmental campaigns, and welcome collaboration on forging an effective and environmentally friendly solution for disposing of your uniforms.
We understand that uniform is an important way of identifying your staff and portraying your brand. Unfortunately when it comes to the disposal of branded uniforms there are a few security risks to be aware of. If garments were to fall in the wrong hands they could be used to impersonate staff, leading to corporate identity theft and fraud.
There are shredding services available which ensures logos, badges and any other identification information is destroyed. However, this does not necessarily mean that the material is recycled, and the waste could still head for landfill.
A great way to ensure the secure disposal of uniform is through de-labelling or de-branding technologies such as manual unpicking, microwave treatment and adhesive over-branding. Utilising these technologies means you can then go on to recycle, upcycle or donate to charity with the knowledge that your brand is fully protected.
Overall, the benefits to dealing with the disposal of uniform responsibly are significant. Not only will it free up storage space, it can reduce harmful effects to the environment, potentially contribute resources to society, leave you with a clear conscience, and protect your company and brand.
Demonstrating that your company is ethically and environmentally aware, and taking responsibility for the effect it’s having on the planet, is both great for internal morale and attractive to customers or potential clients.
If you require new uniforms and would like further guidance on how to dispose of your old garments, then get in touch with the WISE Worksafe team today. We take our environmental responsibility seriously and encourage all of our customers to do the same.