Prisoners at HMP Northumberland in the north east of England are recycling disused Ocado uniforms to reduce waste going to landfill and gain skills and experience to improve their rehabilitation.
HMP Northumberland, which has been managed by Sodexo Justice Services for two years, said that it has partnered with online retailer Ocado and social enterprise charity Hubbub to repurpose old corporate uniforms into aprons and tote bags to be sold for charity.
The initiative was launched today in Westminster at the All Party Parliamentary Group for Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion.
According to Sodexo two in seven working people in the UK wear a uniform. The result was said to be nearly 33 million corporate garments being provided with around 90% - 15,000 tonnes - going to landfill or incineration each year.
The tote bags and aprons were designed by London sustainable fashion brand ‘everything in colour’ and will be sold to raise funds for the Ocado Foundation.
“As a working prison our objective is to provide meaningful activity for prisoners to give them the best chance of finding employment upon release,” commented Tony Simpson, director of HMP Northumberland. “Learning new skills and developing a strong work ethic are known to have a positive impact on reducing reoffending when offenders return into the community.”
Hubbub’s founder, Trewin Restorick added: “We hope offices, warehouses, shops and factories throughout the UK will recognise the scale of this environmental problem and see that by treating their old uniforms as a useful resource they can find creative solutions that build not only environmental benefits but social and financial ones too.”
“Corporate uniforms are tricky to deal with. The last thing a company wants is for branded clothing to get into the wrong hands,” Retorick contined. “But this project shows how, with creative thinking and a partnership approach, you can find solutions which go way beyond the obvious environmental benefits.”
“With Ocado, designers ‘everything in colour’ and HMP Northumberland, we have created a range of sustainably created products with a social purpose, which promotes the rehabilitation and training of prisoners and supports a small start-up design business,” he concluded.
Suzanne Westlake, Ocado’s head of corporate responsibility said: “We wanted to find a better solution to the problem of our unwanted uniforms in order to avoid them ending up in landfill. This innovative project has turned them into fantastic designer products and we hope our customers will show their support by buying them and helping generate funds for the Ocado Foundation.’’
According to Sodexo the initiative is one of a number run to provide purposeful activity for prisoners. As well as the textiles workshop where the Ocado uniforms are repurposed, there is an engineering workshop where prisoners produce components for the manufacturing industry.
The company also noted that HMP Northumberland is the only prison in the country to have Red Tractor accreditation for its market garden, where prisoners produce fresh fruit and vegetables for external clients, including Durham University.
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