HMP Northumberland to recycle Ocado uniforms

HMP Northumberland to recycle Ocado uniformsOnline retailer Ocado has set out to reduce its landfill waste by repurposing old uniforms as aprons and tote bags in a collaborative initiative with HMP Northumberland and charitable organisation Hubbub.

The two-year initiative was launched at the All Party Parliamentary Group for Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion yesterday (1 December), where Tony Simpson, director of HMP Northumberland, spoke of how purposeful activity provided to the prisoners at HMP Northumberland will aid rehabilitation by lowering their chances of reoffending.

Everything in colour

Two in seven working people wear a uniform, but difficulties in recovering uniforms and removing branding mean that they are often not recycled.

Instead, 90 per cent of the 33 million garments provided are thrown away, resulting in 15,000 tonnes being incinerated or landfilled each year, according to Hubbub.

The new initiative aims to address some of this waste by repurposing old corporate uniforms into aprons and tote bags designed by London sustainable fashion brand ‘everything in colour’. The items will then be sold to raise funds for the Ocado Foundation.

HMP Northumberland has been transformed into a working prison by Sodexo, a France-based facilities management multinational corporation, since its takeover in 2013. The prison also houses an engineering workshop where manufacturing components are produced and is the only prison in the UK to have a Red Tractor accredited Market Garden, which provides fresh fruit and vegetables for clients such as Durham University.

According to the initiative’s partners, using this facility will allow ‘everything in colour’ to repurpose donated fabrics sustainably cost effectively while providing new skills for prisoners.

Ocado will market the garments produced, including aprons, pet blankets, tote bags and child fluorescent safety jackets back to its customers. The funds generated will be given to charity via the Ocado Foundation.

Hubbub believes this project has financial, environmental and social benefit, and could be used as a model by more companies as a ‘closed-loop solution’ for disused uniforms. The organisation has planned an event at the House of Commons to discuss a more sustainable approach to the design, sourcing and disposal of uniforms in the future.

Project goes “way beyond the obvious environmental benefits”

Tony Simpson, director of HMP Northumberland, said: “As a working prison, our objective is to provide meaningful activity for prisoners to give them the best chance of finding employment upon release. Learning new skills and developing a strong work ethic are known to have a positive impact on reducing reoffending when offenders return into the community.”

Hubbub’s founder, Trewin Restorick, said: “We hope offices, warehouses, shops and factories throughout the UK will recognise the scale of this environmental problem and see that by treating their old uniforms as a useful resource they can find creative solutions that build not only environmental benefits but social and financial ones too.

“Corporate uniforms are tricky to deal with. The last thing a company wants is for branded clothing to get into the wrong hands. But this project shows how, with creative thinking and a partnership approach, you can find solutions which go way beyond the obvious environmental benefits. With Ocado, designers ‘everything in colour’ and HMP Northumberland, we have created a range of sustainably created products with a social purpose, which promotes the rehabilitation and training of prisoners and supports a small start-up design business.”

Suzanne Westlake, Ocado’s Head of Corporate Responsibility, added: “As a responsible retailer, we wanted to find a better solution to the problem of our unwanted uniforms in order to avoid them ending up in landfill. This innovative project has turned them into fantastic designer products and we hope our customers will show their support by buying them and helping generate funds for the Ocado Foundation.’’

More information is available on Hubbub’s website.