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Going Circular - Cut from the same cloth

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Bridget Jackson: We have six different suppliers who work on our sites and provide a range of services such as security, hospitality, catering, cleaning etc.

Lois Collins: Mitie provide document management and distribution services for PwC. We uniform nearly all of our staff so that they present a professional image to PwC. We replenish the uniforms as and when we need them, to make sure that they keep smart. Some people will take them to charity shops, or really just throw them in the bin.

Sarah Clayton: Textiles waste is a huge problem in the UK. Our research shows there are 39.2 million items of corporate wear being produced every year, that’s about 16,000 tonnes. Only 9% is actually being reused, which in our view is far too low.

Bridget Jackson: In any year we may throw away around 3,000 garments.  There are a number of different environmental issues associated with textiles. Primarily it’s about the amount of energy and water that is required either to produce the raw materials that are used for them or in the production processes. 

Diverting textiles from landfill

Sarah Clayton: What we would like to see is these uniforms get reused to reduce carbon, water and waste impacts on the environment. 

Bridget Jackson: We set up a take back system for the employees of suppliers who are working on our sites and asked them if they would mind that when we issue new uniforms, the employees would bring back the old ones so that we could do something with it. 

The employees were really pleased we were doing it, they thought it was the right thing to do for the environment and we were also able to give the employees a bit of information about why we were running the scheme and to ask them to take steps at home in the care of their new uniforms which would extend the life of them and reduce their sustainability footprint as well.

Sarah Clayton: One particular challenge for corporate wear is actually ensuring that the logos from specific items can be removed. 

Bridget Jackson: The easiest one to treat is where you’ve got a tab, which gives you a really good opportunity for branding but you can cut it off once you no longer want the garment and it can be reused. The beauty of the system that we’ve now set up is that not only is it better for the environment but it also means we have complete certainty over where all of the uniforms are going and what happens to them.

Partnering for reuse and recycling 

Bridget Jackson: We had a look at the market place to identify suitable specialist textile recyclers that had the right sort of processes in place and who were near enough to the offices that we were not going to be causing more carbon than we were saving by shipping the uniforms to them and the company that we chose to work with is JMP Wilcox.  

Jill Nolan: This is JMP Wilcox’s wiper bay where we cut clothing that is not fit for purpose and also uniform that has to have the logos removed. Down here is our secure destruction area. We take the logos off, the logo then gets chopped in half. They take the buttons off which go for reuse and then the rest of the rags are then sorted into different fabrics, baled and sent out as industrial hand wipes. If uniform ends up going into landfill it’s going to cost you approximately £100 per tonne.  

Bridget Jackson: It does cost a little bit to set up a take back scheme like this, we estimate that it is about 5-15p per person who is wearing a uniform per year and we don’t think that’s a huge amount to pay for the benefits that you get from both an environmental point of view and from a security point of view. In the process of doing this we are learning about what causes the garment to fail in the first place and why we have to replace them. So we can take that insight and we can then work with the companies who are making the uniforms so that they can change them and adapt them so that they’re more durable.

Moving towards fully circular solutions 

Bridget Jackson: We have to shift the economy from one which is take, make and throw away to something which is much more circular that keeps all the items in circulation, the raw materials for as long as possible.

Sarah Clayton: Our research shows that there are 60% of textiles still going to landfill and this needs to be addressed.

Bridget Jackson: The fantastic thing about this is that absolutely every part of the garment is either reused or recovered. 

Lois Collins: It’s so simple but with such a valuable result. 

Jill Nolan: Don’t let it go landfill.

Contact us

Bridget Jackson

Bridget Jackson

Chief Sustainability Officer, PwC United Kingdom