Virgin Trains hands over old uniforms to prison in recycling scheme

Prisoners at HMP Northumberland will take part in a recycling initiative which will see old Virgin Trains uniforms transformed into new textiles in a bid to reduce reoffending rates.

Supported by social enterprise charity Hubbub, which has formed a similar partnership with Ocado, the project is part of a rehabilitation scheme that aims to prepare prisoners for life outside.

The upcycled garments will create items such as blankets, bags and coats which will be donated to homeless charity The Albert Kennedy Trust to help young LGBT rough sleepers.

“We’re delighted to be partnering with Virgin Trains on its uniform upcycling initiative,” HMP Northumberland’s head of business development Steven Goodacre said.

“Not only is it great to be giving back to local and national homeless charities, but it’s also a fantastic opportunity for our offenders within the establishment to learn new skills which will help them once they have been released, while also decreasing the likelihood of reoffending.” 

‘New lease of life’

Around 30 million tonnes of corporate uniforms are sent to landfill each year in the UK. Providing a creative solution, Virgin Trains last year launched a new body-neutral uniform range created by sustainable fashion designers Gerardine and Wayne Hemingway.

Commenting on the company’s latest initiative, Virgin Trains’ responsible business manager Zinzi Dzuda said: “Virgin Trains has a passion for sustainability, so when it came to launching our new uniforms we wanted to make sure our old ones were being recycled in the best way possible.

“This environmental collaboration with HMP Northumberland gives our old uniforms a new lease of life and is a creative solution to achieving zero-waste-to-landfill, whilst also supporting vulnerable people across our patch.”

Wearing thin

On a broader level, textile waste remains an achilles heel of the circular economy, with figures from WRAP revealing that more than 350,000 tonnes of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK every year. 

The issue has been tackled head-on by Hubbub, which has an overarching goal in place to reduce the £150m worth of clothes wasted every year in the UK.

The charity announced last week that a baby clothing redistribution trial with Mothercare will be expanded nationwide, after more than 20,000 items of clothing were allocated to around 2,000 families last year.

Hubbub has also launched a freely-available ‘How to Guide’, enabling any corporate, charity or community to set up its own initiative.

George Ogleby

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