School uniform recycling project in Leeds has saved more than 3,000 items from being binned in last ten weeks

A school uniform recycling project in Leeds has helped thousands of families kit their kids out ready for going back to school this term.

Tuesday, 29th September 2020, 6:00 am

Zero Waste started the project - where people can donate pieces of school uniform they no longer need and where people can obtain it from if they are struggling to buy new - earlier this year .

It came after studies revealed how much clothing was being wasted, combined with the growing costs for uniform items, and an increase in families living in poverty. Within just a few months there are now 90 schemes across the city operating at community centres, schools or facebook pages and groups that have been set up especially.

An impact study, released this month by Zero Waste, reveals the impact that the scheme has had economically and environmentally.

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Donations at school uniform recycling projects, like this one at Morley, have left organisers amazed.

It shows that in the last ten weeks, 12 new schemes have started across the city, and 3,000 items have been re-used - which would be equivalent to saving 600kg of textile waste.

However, Gill Coupland, director of Social Business Brokers, which lists Zero Waste as one of its projects, believes that the actual figures for this could be double.

She said: "They were able to give away 3,000 items over the weeks that we counted. Some were shy about asking so it could be double that. It has been the best and most engaging thing that we have ever done. It captured everyone's imagination across the city.

"Whether it is this year in particular or because we have had school uniform there that would not fit, but the number of items we had donated was bonkers. Over all the schemes, we had over 10,000 items of school uniform donated. All of them said that they could not believe the response. It is amazing that we have found all of these people who have donated it and all of these people who need and want it.

Jennie Poppleton at the Church of the Nazarene in Morley, the home of a school uniform recycling project run by Zero Waste. Picture Tony Johnson

Zero Waste estimated that every year 4,000 tonnes of clothes end up in black bins in Leeds and school uniforms are part of the problem. If every new school starter in Leeds had either one second hand shirt or blouse it would save 122,000kg of CO2 emissions.

It also calculated that around 29, 660 children under 16 are living in low income families in Leeds and that the average spend on school uniform items per year, per child is £348.55.

Ms Coupland added: "We know that school uniform is hard to sell and I have spoken to a number of charity shops and organisations and they say they have had school uniform in but no-one wants it but, when you give it away, everyone wants it. We put a lot of effort into presenting it really nice. They are washed and laundered and displayed so that when you walk in, it looks like you have walked into a shop and not a charity shop.

"Charity shops did not know what to do with it so we have opened up a market. The average cost is £348.55. If you have three kids, that is £1,000 and all at one time. People have said if it was not for this - they would have had to find that money and it has made a big difference."

Zero Waste is now planning to hold a Big Leeds School Uniform Giveaway in February with pop-up shops, drop-ins at existing ones, promotions and other events. It is with a view to helping pupils be kitted out for the run up to the summer terms.

Two thirds of primary and secondary schools in Leeds are now covered by the scheme and a recent drive has seen new ones at Hunslet and Holbeck.

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Thank you

Laura Collins