Old Northern uniforms to be recycled into train insulation

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Old uniforms no longer needed by staff working for UK rail firm Northern are set to be shredded and turned into “further life products” such as insulation and sound-boarding as part of a new environmental push by the train operator.

End of life uniform will be collected from depots and train crew centers on a regular basis before being shredded and used in one of three ways by recycling partner, Avena, a specialist in brand security through processes including textile shredding, clothing destruction and textile recycling.

Some of the material, if of a pure fiber structure, will be used to create new items of clothing; some will be used to make new products including insulation, sound boards and partition walls; and those not suitable for either of these avenues will be incinerated to create energy as an alternative to landfill.

Northern is the second largest train operator in the UK, with 2,500 services a day to more than 500 stations across the North of England. With a nearly 7,000-strong workforce, many of whom wear uniforms and workwear, the turnover of garments through natural wear and tear alone is significant.

Northern has tens of thousands of pieces of uniform and workwear in use by colleagues across the business at any one time. Many of the items feature the Northern logo and therefore must be disposed of safely for security reasons – to avoid the possibility of items being used by those looking to impersonate rail workers and gain access to restricted areas of depots and stations.

Mike Roe, safety and environment director at Northern, said, “We already recycle 70% of our waste, but we’re on a mission to get that to 74% by 2026. Uniforms are something we have in abundance and through natural wear and tear and the turnover of staff we regularly have to order in fresh supplies.

“By ensuring old items are being recycled rather than ending up in general waste we can reduce our environmental impact and support other businesses that are looking to source greener components for their products,” Roe added.

Elliott Day, senior executive at Avena, continued, “As a business we’re delighted to start working with Northern to help it achieve a complete secure solution for end-of-life uniform and workwear. At Avena we have implemented lockable units across multiple Northern locations, so their staff are able to utilize the secure recycling facilities at the site most convenient to them. The old uniforms and workwear will be recycled in the most effective way possible which guarantees full landfill avoidance whilst assisting Northern with their environmental targets.”