Kiwi corporates join forces to tackle textile waste

24 May 2016

Five of New Zealand’s largest corporates are working together to find new ways to reuse employee uniforms and reduce textile waste.  

Air New Zealand, New Zealand Post, Fonterra, SKYCITY Auckland and The Warehouse Group have set up a working group to look at what to do with old uniforms that have been replaced. Collectively these organisations produce more than 60,000 uniforms every year, presenting an opportunity to establish an environmentally and commercially sustainable business solution. 

The Formary, which is expert in textile fibre recovery and re-engineering, is working with the five organisations and leading the project. The Formary’s founder Bernadette Casey says technical challenges are often difficult to solve in isolation and the business partnership is a good idea. 

“These companies are leading the way in solving what has been a largely ignored problem – growing textile waste. It’s hugely exciting to be involved in discovering new ways to extract the greatest value from garments, in a collaborative way,” she says. 

“This involves deconstructing the garments and re-processing the fibres into a range of new products. We’ll be looking to work with New Zealand companies with the capability to do this.

“We want to create a step change in reusing textile waste,” says Dawn Baggaley, Corporate Sustainability Manager at New Zealand Post. 

“We’ve been working on this problem for some time and knew other corporates were too, so reached out to them to initiate this project.  We’re fortunate to be working with an innovative group of businesses, all of which are interested in the environmental impacts of their operations. There’s real leadership and commitment amongst the group.” 

Air New Zealand’s General Manager Procurement Andy Richards says, “At Air New Zealand we’ve been making some good headway with recycling our staff uniforms – turning many garments into items like furniture blankets and mattress inners. This new project is exciting, allowing us to further build on this work as well as collaborate with other like-minded organisations which share similar challenges to us when it comes to managing waste as part of the complete lifecycle of uniforms.”

Background

More than one hundred million kilograms of textile waste, including used clothing, ends up in New Zealand landfills every year (source Ministry for the Environment). Discarded clothing is also sent off shore to other countries.  

Finding new uses for clothing presents significant opportunities, reducing the need for virgin fibres and creating new, profitable businesses. Research by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation found the UK is currently achieving 65% textile recycling. Using their model, a tonne of collected and sorted clothing can generate revenues of close to NZD$3,000 – subtracting collection and sorting the profit potential is around NZD$2,000 per tonne (source Ellen MacArthur Foundation).

Source of article: joint press release from the organisations involved.