Case study: Circular Approaches to Waste Uniforms
Company - GWR
How was this solved?
With 4200 uniformed staff a rebrand is a major operation. As First Great Western re-branded to GWR, initial research revealed that there is no current solution for branded corporate wear, which is unique because each piece must be tagged in some way to indicate that it is work wear only.
Finding a true recycling solution is difficult because workwear is often made of mixed fibres and features buttons and other fastenings as well as branding which may be woven into fabrics, embroidered or printed on the surface.
GWR worked with Uniform Reuse to identify a number of routes to deal with the various types of clothing which makes up the full range of uniforms.
There were several challenges to consider, from the dispersal of the clothing across our network, to the types of textile the pieces were made up of. It wasn’t always possible to break materials down to the original fibre to be able to reuse them. In some cases the fabric was too worn, in others it simply couldn’t be separated. - Amie Coppin, Head of Sustainability, GWR
Items were collected together in bins at the most populated sites such as major stations, driver facilities and office buildings. Clothing had to be debranded before disposal providing a challenge because items contain ‘tax tags’ which indicate they are not casual wear. These must be removed, adding cost and complexity to the process. To manage this bundles were then passed through the prison service, providing work to offenders who could remove the branding tags, fastenings and other elements that could not be recycled. Materials were then sent for textile recycling which included flocking for upholstery and reuse.
The best available solutions were found but for the future there is an opportunity to consider different textiles and how they can be broken down right from the design stage and whether different processes could be implemented to brand tag clothing.
Ultimately there are potential further gains for the rail franchises in addressing such challenges whilst preserving brand security with projects working on converting polyester to diesel and use the fabric for generation of energy. Each time a franchise changes hands there is an opportunity to pick up the threads of these challenges.
What were the outcomes?
Staff awareness increased around waste issues, GWR’s understanding of the challenges increased, noted that there is a need to improve monitoring processes for returned items.
Reducing our environmental impact, carbon smart and having a positive social impact.
Asset / operations