Reusing and recycling school uniforms could help prevent hundreds of tonnes of plastic going to landfill, according to a new survey.
It found that up to 1.4 million school uniforms, many of which could be reused, are thrown away every year. And because many of the garments contain high levels of polyester, that equates to around 350 tonnes of plastic.
Lars Andersen, managing director at My Nametags, which commissioned the survey of 2,000 parents, said: “Typically polyester or acrylic are materials that are 100% plastic.
“So if you take a normal school uniform shirt, it has around two-thirds polyester and one-third cotton – that’s two-thirds made entirely out of plastic.”
The research suggests many school uniforms which are still in good condition are thrown away when the child outgrows them.
At the Pudsey Community Project in Leeds, a uniform exchange for used clothing is providing an alternative for parents.
A typical school uniform costs around £300 a year. So as the cost of living crisis continues to bite, the option of getting some (or all) of a child’s uniform for free means that money can be spent elsewhere.
It also means less clothing, and therefore plastic, being sent to landfill.
“I think it’s vital and I’m really glad that we’re part of a wider network across Leeds,” said the project’s chief of trustees, Richard Dimery.
“It’s certainly vital for the families that use this service.
“We’ve got people coming in basically every day to use this.
“We have helped to clothe over 1,100 children in the past 12 months, 157 just in May this year.”
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That wider network is under the umbrella of the council’s ZeroWaste Leeds scheme.
They help administer 280 clothing and uniform exchanges in the city, covering 93% of its schools.
Last summer alone, a scheme of 44 pop-up uniform shops distributed 8,500 garments which would have cost around £45,000 if bought new.
Tracy Morgan from ZeroWaste Leeds said: “Not only has this saved local families money but it has greatly benefited the environment too.
“According to our calculations the number of items we gave out amounts to 30,600kg of CO2 emissions saved, and 1,700kg potential textile waste was saved from ending up in landfill.”