Veolia and national reuse charity Reuseful UK have combined to extend the life of uniforms worn by street cleaners and give unemployed people new skills.
The pair have set up the Re:Form project which is expected to recycle 10 tonnes of used personal protective equipment (PPE) from Veolia’s contracts in London in its first year, with the potential to expand.
Re:Form partners with the Cambridgeshire Community Reuse and Recycling Network, and is funded by Greater Cambridge and Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership and Veolia.
Following a trial involving 250 people at Veolia’s Southwark facility, the project has been expanded to recycle 10,000 items from 3,000 Veolia workers across London which are collected, cleaned and sorted at a workshop in March, Cambridgeshire.
More that 100 people seeking employment have been involved with the project since it started at the beginning of 2016, helping to sort, upcycle and resell the donated items. The number of people taking part has doubled each quarter, and around 40 people have found employment elsewhere.
Uniforms still fit for purpose are repackaged and sold, while other items are remanufactured into new items and craft kits. Donated sweaters become teddy bears (pictured) which will be sold or put into charity ‘rainbow boxes’ – a subsidiary project for terminally ill children.
Patricia Watson, who manages the project for Veolia, said: “Our old uniform is such a mixture of materials, in various states of cleanliness and disrepair, that the traditional recycling markets simply could not deal with it. We are delighted to be part of such an innovative solution which not only diverts waste from landfill and energy recovery but, more importantly, helps to support the local community and people into work.”
Nikki DiGiovanni, chief executive at Reuseful UK: “Not only do we repurpose these uniforms, but we are giving local people a sense of purpose by helping them to find the confidence and gain the skills needed to gain employment.”