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Feature: Boot camp

In an age dominated by consumerism, one of the most powerful spending groups to have emerged in recent years is the under 13s. Marketing teams are desperate to influence this most fickle age range, whose parents seem equally desperate to ensure that their children are fully kitted out in with the latest fashions so that they can secure their place towards the top of the playground pecking order.

Inevitably, with this spending frenzy comes unnecessary waste as clothes are either rejected out of hand or discarded after having only been worn a handful of times. This doesn’t bode well in terms of building a sustainable society as good intentions are often outweighed by ingrained overspending.

But by going into schools and encouraging children to think about the waste that they are producing, east London-based textile recycler LMB is seeing real results in the way that the students have understood and are now practising the recycling message.

“It is unbelievable what people throw away,” says LMB’s education co-ordinator Michelle Barry. “We have a social responsibility to work with children and try to encourage them not to get caught up in this consumer craziness. With cheaper imports, people are throwing things away more readily and we are receiving clothes that still have the tags on and shoes that have hardly been worn.

“During the past few years, you can see how things have changed. People used to make their clothes last so the items that we received were of a high quality, but more out of fashion.”

As creator of the Shoe Friends project, LMB has been working with primary schools in the Greater London, Essex and Kent areas for some time. The scheme was devised as the company found ever increasing numbers of single shoes turning up at its factory. By partnering with schools, the company provided collection facilities and gave assemblies explaining that if shoes were properly paired they could be reused.

“Around two million pairs of shoes are thrown away each week,” continues Barry. “We are teaching children that what they consider to be waste is someone else’s necessity and someone else’s business. The schools are paid for the collections, the local authorities get the recycling credits, and then people in developing countries benefit from the clothes and shoes and the work that they provide.”

On the strength of the positive response that the project generated, the company has recently expanded the work it is doing by creating a new department called LMB Education and hiring four new team members to go out to schools and introduce the Shoe Friends and Clothes Collectors schemes.

“Things have changed dramatically from it just being me on my own going out and giving assemblies, to now having a team who go out repping in different areas,” says Barry. “The response we get is excellent. We are now going into schools and giving check presentations, and the children tell us how they have managed to persuade their parents to recycle at home.”

The education boost has co-incided with the company’s re-designed website, which includes a virtual tour of the factory and a recycling game.

However, LMB’s involvement with education has not stopped in this country. In 2004 LMB and Shoe Friends, working in conjunction with Ugandan-based charity Soft Power Educat

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