Virgin Trains upcycles old uniforms to help homeless

Virgin Trains has launched a zero waste to landfill initiative for its old uniforms and announced that old uniforms will now be recycled into bags, clothes and blankets for homeless people.

The old uniforms have been handed over to a prison in Northumberland to be recycled by its talented textiles team. This follows the launch in 2017 of Virgin Trains’ new body-neutral uniform range designed by sustainable fashion designers Gerardine and Wayne Hemingway.

Approximately 30 million tonnes of corporate wear is sent to landfill each year in the UK – Virgin Trains is looking to address this with a creative solution that will see old uniforms transformed into new items by prisoners at HMP Northumberland in its onsite textile factory. The innovative partnership is part of a rehabilitation scheme that helps to prepare prisoners for life outside, in an effort to reduce reoffending rates.


The initiative will see prisoners transforming the old uniforms into items such as blankets, bags and coats to help those living on the streets. The items will then be donated to local homeless charity, The Albert Kennedy Trust, which supports young LGBT homeless people in crisis, HMP Askham Grange and Virgin Trains’ charity partner Rethink Mental Illness.

“We’re delighted to be partnering with Virgin Trains on its uniform upcycling initiative,” Steven Goodacre, head of business development at HMP Northumberland, said. “Not only is it great to be giving back to local and national homeless charities, but it’s also a fantastic opportunity for our offenders within the establishment to learn new skills which will help them once they have been released, while also decreasing the likelihood of reoffending.”


Zinzi Dzusa, responsible business manager at Virgin Trains, added: “Virgin Trains has a passion for sustainability, so when it came to launching our new uniforms we wanted to make sure our old ones were being recycled in the best way possible. This environmental collaboration with HMP Northumberland gives our old uniforms a new lease of life and is a creative solution to achieving zero waste to landfill, whilst also supporting vulnerable people across our patch.”

This recycling scheme follows Virgin Trains’ employment programme for ex-prisoners which was established at the end of 2011 on the West Coast. The initiative was the brainchild of Richard Branson who believes strongly that ex-prisoners should not be ignored by potential employers because of their criminal record.


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