As work uniform suppliers, we understand how difficult it can be to stay on top of uniform needs. With a workforce that is always growing and changing, having well designed uniforms that are durable, professional-looking as well as sustainable can be a difficult task. But also, what happens when these uniforms are no longer needed? In this article, we will be looking at the end-of-life disposal practices of sustainable workwear and how you can make your company’s uniforms more environmentally-friendly.
Improper waste disposal can have a wide range of negative effects on the environment, human health, and communities – and this also includes how we get rid of clothing items like uniforms. So, what happens when we don’t properly dispose of our unwanted garments?
Did you know that over 100 billion garments end up in landfills every single year? According to PlanetRadio.co.uk, ‘360k tonnes of reusable clothes are dumped in landfill each year’. A lot of clothes waste is down to fast fashion. If a company produces and sells clothing and accessories which are designed quickly in response to the latest fashion trends, then these pieces are more likely to end up in landfill sites.
As a result, these items typically become unfashionable within a short period of time, and they are also not likely to last that long. With fast fashion, there is an emphasis on getting clothing out quickly, rather than it being well-made. Poorly made items will either break, or simply become undesirable in a couple of months. They will then be put into landfill sites alongside other pieces which are no longer seen as stylish.
These landfills are bad for the environment surrounding them, and far beyond. Landfills can contaminate nearby sources of soil and water. This can not only affect wildlife nearby, but also human lives as well. Without fresh water and nutrient rich soil, there will become an increasing problem around the growth of food and other important crops. Landfills are known to contribute directly to climate change if left unchecked. Piles of waste can produce carbon dioxide and water vapour with trace amounts of oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen.
Microplastic pollution is another overwhelming problem with landfill sites. Without proper waste disposal for fabric, some clothing pieces can shed microplastic fibres which again, can find their way into bodies of water. This will also pollute our water systems and oceans.
Microplastics’ widespread presence in the water, such as oceans and lakes, can create a potential toxicological risk to organisms and living things. Microplastics can be accidentally ingested by animals and humans alike. These nasty fibres have been found in many large and small mammals over the years. With the introduction of proper waste disposal, we can prevent this type of pollution from continuing to happen. We can ensure that all unwanted clothing materials and textiles are disposed of in the most environmentally responsible way possible. This will minimise the negative impact of the environment, wildlife and public health.
Sending your unwanted clothing to landfill can have extremely negative effects on the planet, and so can burning textiles. An alternative to using a dump or landfill site for some, is opting to light unwanted clothing on fire via waste to energy schemes. However, this is also not an effective method of getting rid of clothes. The burning of textiles can release toxic fumes, which can contribute directly to air quality problems. When disposing of old clothing or uniforms, it’s important that you have a proper waste disposal method in place, which keeps the environment in mind.
Many of us are trying to consciously think about the planet during our everyday life – which could include our clothing or workwear. The independent consumer’s eco-conscious choices can also influence their shopping preferences. Companies can also take these steps in a more sustainable direction. Through their uniform choices, they can look at reducing their own carbon footprint and making their company more environmentally friendly.
For example, according to the RailBusinessDaily.com, ‘old uniforms no longer needed by Northern staff are set to be shredded and turned into ‘further life products’ such as insulation and sound-boarding’. As well as opting for uniforms which prioritise sustainable material, businesses are now also pushed to look at how they dispose of old workwear. Old uniforms don’t have to end up in landfill; they can be repurposed into valuable and sustainable products. So, how else can your companies create uniforms with responsible disposal practices in mind?
Firstlly, designing sustainable workwear with durability in mind is a must. To avoid similar pitfalls as fast fashion, it’s important to think about everything uniforms contend with on a daily basis. Uniforms are typically worn throughout the week for multiple days in a row. Uniforms have to be able to be washed numerous times and handle whatever a working day may throw at it.
Without durability in mind when designing workwear, it can create issues with frequent replacements and increased costs – both to your company and to the environment.
A well-made uniform is better for the planet as it means less fabric will go to waste. By designing a custom sustainable workwear for your business, you can reduce your overall carbon footprint, making your business more ‘green.’ Also, a durable uniform is a smart uniform.
Speaking of the general wear and tear of uniforms, some sustainable fabrics can actually improve their life-span. This can be dependent on the fabrics chosen however, natural options such as organic cotton, hemp, bamboo and recycled fibres are long-lasting, use less water to grow and don’t deplete soil, making it great for the planet. However, it’s important to note that this isn’t always the case. Recycled polyester isn’t as durable as virgin polyester, even if it is better for the environment.
At Jermyn Street Design, we are dedicated to being sustainable and environmentally-responsible in everything we do. We offer a range of solutions for handling excess, or uniform stock that is no longer required. The JSD team can present you with a number of choices for recycling or upcycling your sustainable uniforms. Once you’ve made your decision, we can oversee the entire process on your behalf.
As uniform suppliers, we want to ensure that our products not only last a long time but are also kind to the planet. Here at JSD, we understand that there are many factors which impact a uniform’s durability. Whilst some factors are more obvious than others, we aim to design uniforms which are both sustainable, have a long lifespan, and contribute to employee well-being.
But, even when your uniform is ready to be retired, we are here to help you make the most sustainable choice with your disposal process.
Another way we actively support the sustainability of our uniforms is through our Corporate Social Responsibility policy, which is built into all our products and services from the outset. Whilst we understand that every uniform starts with a good design, we also aim to manage all aspects of sustainability and our supply chain in-house. This ensures we have full control over the end-to-end processes, as well as the ability to fulfil all our promises, both to our clients and to the planet. If you are looking for your next uniform supplier, and want to ensure you are making the most environmentally-conscious choice, then contact us on +44 20 8563 5000 today.
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