Prisoners at HMP Northumberland are recycling disused Ocado uniforms to reduce waste going to landfill and gain skills and experience to improve their rehabilitation.

HMP Northumberland, managed by Sodexo Justice Services for two years as of today, 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 will be launched today (1 December) in Westminster at the All Party Parliamentary Group for Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion. Tony Simpson, director of HMP Northumberland, will speak about how purposeful activity for prisoners reduces the chance of reoffending.

Two in seven working people in the UK wear a uniform. Nearly 33 million corporate garments are provided for their use and around 90% - 15,000 tonnes - goes to landfill or incineration each year. This represents a significant waste of resources and causes significant damage to the environment.

Since taking over on 1 December 2013 Sodexo has transformed HMP Northumberland into a working prison. 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.

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.

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.

Tony Simpson, director of HMP Northumberland, said: “As a working prison our objective is to provide meaningful activity for prisoners to give them the best chance of finding employment upon release.  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 said: “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. 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.”

Suzanne Westlake, Ocado’s Head of Corporate Responsibility said: “As a responsible retailer, 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.’’


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