Australian textile rescue program Worn Up is turning old school uniforms into furniture fabrics, saving them from landfills.
The initiative aims to keep tonnes of used uniforms and textiles out of landfills by transforming them into a fabric composite called FABtec, used for school desks, stools, and acoustic tiles.
Worn Up founder Anne Thompson said each school in New South Wales discards 100-200 kilograms of non-wearable old school uniforms each year.
“Between the schools and business Textile Rescue programs, we’ve already stopped 50 tonnes of uniforms going to landfill,” said Thompson.
The upcycling process begins with a school or workplace signing up for the initiative. Then, Worn Up sends over a custom-branded collection pod where the company picks up discarded uniforms upon scheduling. Finally, the discarded uniforms are sorted, cleaned up, and then transformed into new products.
The textile rescue program recently received a $100,000 grant from the Environment Protection Authority’s (EPA) Circulate program to fund and increase outreach to rural schools and big businesses.
“Worn Up is helping divert reusable textiles from landfill while creating jobs in the circular economy and reducing emissions,” said Amanda Kane, organics manager, EPA.
According to Kane, polyester and organic textiles are wasted in landfills, creating greenhouse emissions, and on average, each Australian discards at least 23 kilograms of textile a year.
“Research shows just 28 per cent of textiles are being recycled and re-used, which is not sustainable, and it’s not in fashion,” Kane added.
The program currently has seven Sydney metropolitan councils on board, one regional council, and 66 schools taking part in the program. Businesses that joined the program include Toby’s Estate, Suntory Coffee, Lowes, Ikea, and Glassons.
“If the more than 3000 schools in NSW joined the program, we could divert more than 310 tonnes out of the landfill each year, just from school uniforms,” Thompson concluded.