We look at how to recycle work uniforms without creating possible threats to your company while helping you to be a more environmentally friendly operation.
Mountains of workwear are discarded around the UK each year — with tons of used items of protective clothing dumped into landfills, where they take many years to decompose. It's estimated that in our throwaway society in which many of us, companies included, blithely cast off their garments and buy new ones without much thought for the environment, upwards of 350 thousand tons of old clothing winds up in our rubbish dumps.
Thankfully, there's growing awareness of the resources it takes to make clothing, including water and electricity, and more people than ever are taking the clothes they no longer need to clothes banks, where they go on for recycling. But when you want to recycle work uniforms, different challenges can make the task somewhat problematic.
But that shouldn't prevent employers from recycling as much of their corporate workwear as possible, especially at a time when consumers are increasingly expecting the companies they buy from to be as environmentally friendly as possible. Here's a brief rundown of how to recycle work uniforms in the best possible way.
Risks of Recycling Work Uniforms
One of the main reasons companies don’t recycle work uniforms is the security risk it might create. Most corporate workwear bears logos and other insignia of the company, and so, discarding of the clothing opens up the possibility that it might fall into the wrong hands and cause trouble for the company.
Thieves might be able to gain access to premises, for instance, simply by wearing company gear bearing its emblems. They could then go about stealing hardware, software or the much more valuable intellectual property, in the form of company research, development and other secret information that you don't want your competitors to know about.
Additionally, allowing corporate workwear to get out into the public — where it might be worn by anyone — risks eroding the public’s trust in your brand, even if the wearer has no ill intent in terms of attempting to gain unauthorised entry into your offices or manufacturing facilities.
How to Recycle Work Uniforms
The first step in recycling work uniforms is to remove anything that identifies you as a company, especially your logo.
Next, you need to look at the various materials used in your corporate workwear. Some garments will have far stronger and different material composition than ordinary clothing, and this may present a challenge when attempting to recycle them.
So instead of the more usual textile recycling, where threads of fabric are separated and rewoven into new materials, chemicals may be needed to break down garments, such as strong fire-retardant clothing, for example. Group your workwear into piles requiring different forms of treatment to recycle them.
Choose a Uniform Recycling Partner
You most likely won't be taking your old corporate workwear to the nearest clothes bank, and you almost certainly won't have a lot of time to spend on this initiative, however laudable it might be. Talk to your workwear supplier and see if you can work out an arrangement whereby they take back your old clothing, remove logos and other company emblems, and send them on for recycling.
If it's not possible, explore other avenues, including contacting a growing number of operations starting up that specialise in this area. One, Uniform Reuse, finds secure, economically viable and environmentally friendly ways for individual companies to recycle their old gear and become more sustainable with their workwear.
Your company could play its part in reducing the more than 90% of corporate uniforms that unnecessarily goes into landfills or is incinerated, easing pressure on precious resources and helping to make the work-world a better place.
Need help with company branding or getting the best corporate sustainable workwear for your company? Contact the experts at WISE Worksafe today and find out more.