A Sydney business has launched, Worn Up,
a program that aims to upcycle 100 tonnes of non-wearable school, work and sports uniforms into furniture and new products.
Textile waste is the second-largest polluter globally, with school uniforms contributing over 2,000 tonnes of waste to landfill each year in Australia.
But sustainable uniform entrepreneur Annie Thompson is taking on the enormous challenge with her Worn Up initiative that will turn discarded school uniforms and other textile waste into furniture.
The idea for Worn Up, Mrs Thompson said, came to after she realized how many school uniforms were ending up in landfill.
“It was clear that the first step was to take responsibility for what we make as a manufacturer, get that out of landfill and help our customers and other manufacturers do the same,” said Mrs Thompson.
6 months into the program and the Macquarie University based start-up has already collected two tonnes of uniforms and offcuts from businesses, schools and uniform manufacturers that would otherwise go to land-fill.
But Mrs Thompson said the more uniforms she saves from the scrap heap the better.
“We measured the amount of uniform waste from schools that we supply, and it was obvious that many schools have old uniforms donated back to them and these often end up being thrown out.”
“Our research shows that on average each school discards between 100 to 200 kilos of non-wearable uniforms a year.
“That means the 3,136 schools in NSW could potentially be producing 627 tonnes of uniform waste alone,” Mrs Thompson said.
Worn Up is a sister business to the award-winning Sustainable Schoolwear (SSW) and Sustainable Workwear businesses, which have been supplying sustainable uniform options for over five years.
As a start-up, SSW partnered with NSW Circular and UNSW SMaRT Centre to see if it was possible to transform non-wearable uniforms into usable products.
The result was a six-month project partly supported by a 2019 AMP Tomorrow Fund grant, called Dress-to-Desk that turned school dresses into materials for school desks.
The pilot’s initial results have been positive, with the Dress to Desk project proving that end-of-life textiles can create flat panels to for school desks and other furniture.
“Sustainable Schoolwear came to us with an open mind about what could be done to stop non-wearable uniforms going into landfill, and what we could make with the recaptured textile waste,” Veena Sahajwalla, UNSW Professor and Director of the SMaRT Centre, said.
“It’s great to see an Aussie business taking the lead. Worn Up is a great start in NSW innovating for a more circular economy and seeing waste as a resource,” Professor Sahajwalla said.
After the project’s initial success, the next step, Mrs Thompson said, was launching Worn Up, a service that collects, treats and upcycles non-wearable uniforms into new products or components.
“Launching Worn Up proves that waste can become a resource and upcycling is viable commercially and helping the planet,” said Mrs Thompson
Schools, sports associations and businesses are encouraged to sign-up on the
Worn Up website for a Worn Up Collection Pod that can take old uniforms to make new things and help put an end to textile waste.