Top Kiwi corporates join forces to tackle textile waste

18 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, Fonterra, New Zealand Post, 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,” says Ms Casey.

"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," says Ms Casey.

“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 who are all 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.”

“Fonterra Brands New Zealand is proud to be partnering with other Kiwi companies to find solutions that will reduce textile waste,” says the company’s Environmental Manager Nic Bishop. “This initiative will help us take a further step in waste reduction where, in New Zealand, Fonterra sites have been reusing or recycling more than 90 per cent of solid waste since 2010.”

“As one of New Zealand’s largest single site employers, SKYCITY Auckland is committed to showing leadership in sustainability and we’re pleased to be collaborating with other top New Zealand businesses on this project. We are very much looking forward to finding a viable, environmentally-friendly solution for the disposable of our uniforms and we look forward to working with our other partners, who are facing similar challenges to us,” says Sifa Taumoepeau, General Manager Government & Community Relations.

The Warehouse Group’s Executive General Manager Community and Environment Paul Walsh says The Warehouse Group has struggled to find good recycling for old uniforms. “By joining forces through this project, we are looking forward to developing a sustainable recycling programme that will reduce the impact of clothing waste on the environment.”

The group aims to complete the research and identify solutions later this year.