Don’t be square, join the circular economy

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In this article, I explain the need to take a circular approach to workwear & uniform disposal, and why it's essential to provide innovative sustainable solutions.

I think it’s great that we’ve seen increases in both the range of sustainable workwear & uniform available, as well as the number of organisations choosing to buy it. But what’s the point of all this sustainable workwear and PPE if it just joins all the non-sustainable clothing and PPE in landfill?

Too many buyers of PPE, workwear, and uniform are not considering the end-of-life disposal process. This is often where their sustainability journey ends. We need to take a new perspective on how we dispose of clothing and start looking beyond its initial use.

That’s why we’ve partnered with Avena to offer customers ZeroWaste: a secure and sustainable recycling and destruction service. Interested? Let me explain a bit more about how textile destruction and recycling works.

The waste hierarchy explained

To maximise how much of the workwear and PPE can be recycled, Avena use an industry-leading, three-tiered, waste hierarchy. This helps separate your items into categories to increase the recyclability rates.

  • The tier 1 route is to reuse the material for future manufacturing. This is best achieved when recycled materials are easily reproduced to make future clothing and textiles.
  • The tier 2 route recycles the old workwear and PPE materials into something that can be used in the world again. For example, this could be geotextiles, partition walls or insulation.
  • The tier 3 route is used when it’s just not possible to recycle the material. Instead, the material will be made into chips and melted to make polyester fabrics. It can even be used for energy (RDF). This route ensures that at no point does your PPE and workwear waste go to a landfill, providing a completely zero-waste solution.

This three-tiered approach provides a full circular solution helping you do your part to reduce carbon emissions and work towards your Scope targets.

Man with bag

What is textile recycling?

The most common method of recycling textiles is to mechanically shred the materials into fabric scraps or fibres. In some cases, removing all existing branding from items first is necessary to maximise the yield from the recycling process. This is something to consider when ordering workwear or PPE.

When a garment is mechanically shredded the fabric scraps are then utilised for another purpose, contributing to a more circular approach to garment disposal. Textiles can also be shredded in fine fibres which can be woven with virgin materials to make a new fabric. These methods keep unwanted or post-consumer clothing out of landfill and contribute to a circular economy.

Why are textiles shredded?

When clothes are still in good shape they are often donated or sold to extend the use of the item. However, branded workwear can’t be donated as it can put your business at risk of identity fraud. By shredding and recycling branded uniforms, you are protecting the safety of the business and taking responsibility for your uniform waste. Shredding might be the only option for some businesses for safety reasons.

If you are looking to contribute to a circular economy, extend the life of textiles and garments to prevent them from going to landfill. Fabric scraps are utilised in any way possible. They can be made into chair padding, carpet underlays and even insulation.

How are the shredded fibres used?

Similar to recycled paper, recycled and shredded fibres can be added to virgin fibres to make yarn-based products and other garments. They are frequently used for padding and can even be found in plush toys, mattresses, upholstery, and soft furnishings.

In some cases, shredded fibres can be used for soundproofing in office screens among other uses. I am amazed that there are so many ways to reuse shredded fibres and fabric. It’s important to provide people with more innovative recycling and waste solutions, to help make climate action more accessible.


Tower’s garment recycling service

At Tower, we offer a ZeroWaste Textile Destruction & Recycling Service. A service that gives employers a way to dispose of their outdated and redundant workwear, uniforms, and PPE without it going into landfill.

We understand that sustainability and waste reduction are at the forefront of business practices right now. This is why we provide a certificate of destruction stating how many kilograms have been collected, and how much water, CO2, and landfill space has been saved by your responsible action.

Want to know more?

If you want to find out more about our commercial added value ZeroWaste Textile Destruction & Recycling Service and how it can benefit your business, call us today on 01202 718000.

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