Train operator recycles over 10,000kg of old uniforms in the last 12 months

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Northern recycles over 10,000kg of old uniforms in first year since turning environmental mission to employee clothing.

In 2023, the train operator Northern announced it had signed a deal with recycling specialist Avena so that its ‘end of life’ uniforms could be shredded and turned into ‘further life products’.

The arrangement has saved over 4,000kg (4,364kg CO2e) of carbon emissions in the last twelve months (May 2023 – April 2024) than if the same volume of material had been sent to landfill. 

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That’s the equivalent of over 11,159 miles driven by an average petrol car or over 2,000kg (2,181kg) of coal being burned. It’s also the same carbon emissions generated from charging 288,031 smart phones.

Northern has tens of thousands of pieces of uniform and workwear in use by colleagues across the business at any one time.

shredded hi vis clothing at Avena facilityshredded hi vis clothing at Avena facility
shredded hi vis clothing at Avena facility

Many of the items feature the Northern logo and therefore have to 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.

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As part of the new recycling drive, 'end of life' uniforms have been collected from 25 depots and train crew centres across the Northern network on a regular basis over the last year.

They are taken away and shredded by Avena, a specialist in brand security through processes including textile shredding, clothing destruction and textile recycling.

To mark the first anniversary of their partnership with Avena, Northern has taken part in a video case study to encourage other organisations with high quantities of ‘end of life' uniforms to recycle more.

Mike Roe, safety and environment director at Northern, said: “Uniforms are something we have in abundance and through natural wear and tear and turnover of staff we regularly have to order-in fresh supplies.

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“Knowing that we’ve sent over ten tonnes of material for recycling through this initiative - which would otherwise have been incinerated or sent to landfill - is something Northern can be proud of.”

Elliott Garner, a spokesperson for Avena, said: “We are delighted to have strengthened and expanded on our relationship with Northern over the past 12 months.

“The recent release of our joint video project underscores Northern's commitment to advancing sustainability goals, directly supported by the SecureBrand Uniform Recycling solution.

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“Avena takes pride in securely recycling all Northern uniform in the most effective way possible, guaranteeing the recycling of all items collected resulting in complete avoidance from landfill.

“The implementation of SecureBrand across 25 Northern sites ensures branded uniform is captured, heavily reducing the risk of uniform breaches and impersonation attempts.

“We look forward to continuing securing the future of Northern for years to come.”

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.

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