Ocado apron

Prisoners will transform old Ocado uniforms into fashionable tote bags and aprons as part of a waste-saving mission.

The online retailer is working with social enterprise charity Hubbub to start slashing the 30 million items of staff wear the UK burns or buries in landfill each year.

Inmates at HMP Northumberland will turn used Ocado uniforms into products designed by a London fashion brand to then be sold online. 

The prisoners will gain skills and work experience, while any proceeds will go towards Ocado’s social projects.

Trewin Restorick, Hubbub’s founder, said branded corporate uniforms could be hard to dispose of but smart thinking and partnerships could provide some answers. 

“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,” he said. 

Two in seven British workers wear uniforms but 90% of the 33 million items used each year are incinerated or end up in landfill - roughly 15,000 tonnes. 

Only 9% of corporate clothing goes to textile collectors. This is because companies worry about security and protecting their brand, while removing logos for re-use can be difficult, gathering old work clothes can be costly and the mix of fabrics can be hard to recycle. 

Finding new uses for uniforms could also save companies £1.2m in landfill tax, Hubbub claims.

Suzanne Westlake, Ocado head of corporate responsibility, said she hoped the project would inspire other companies to save money and show their environmental commitment.

“As a responsible retailer, we wanted to find a better solution to the problem of our unwanted uniforms,” she explained.

HMP Northumberland is a working prison that aims to give inmates the best chance of finding jobs when they are released.

“The skills and work ethic they learn are proven to have a positive impact on reducing reoffending when they return to the community,” said Tony Simpson of Sodexo Justice Services.