How to recycle PPE and protective clothing

How to recycle PPE and protective clothing

At Contego Safety Solutions, our business is about protecting people from hazards at work. But we’re also facing up to the role that we play in protecting our world against the hazards of climate change and waste. Part of this is helping our customers recycle PPE, workwear and protective clothing responsibly when these items are no longer needed or need replacing. That’s why we encourage our customers to use PPE recycling specialists Recycling Lives when their PPE or safety workwear has reached its usable limit.

How is PPE recycled?

Recycling PPE has not always been easy. PPE is often made of complex materials and parts that can’t be recycled in traditional recycling facilities. Recycling Lives is a specialist organisation that collects and recycles PPE, uniform and workwear, including corporate clothing, safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, safety footwear, harnesses and high-vis clothing.

While generic clothes recycling often includes reselling or exporting to developing countries, this isn’t appropriate for branded clothing, used PPE or uniforms. Instead, a specialist process is needed to recycle them.

We understand that it is absolutely essential that your brand is protected. At the Recycling Lives facility, corporate items are first sorted for logos and corporate branding. These are diligently removed and securely destroyed – a vital step for most companies to ensure security and make sure that branded items do not end up out of their control. Then, garments and PPE are stripped and separated into material streams to be processed ahead of recycling.

What happens to recycled PPE?

After PPE and workwear have been stripped and streamed, fabrics are shredded and blended into new materials; plastics are washed and granulated then sent to injection moulders; metals are collected and sent to foundries to be made into new products. What would have ended up in landfill can now be made into a range of new items.

Recycled workwear and PPE have been recreated into relief blankets to use in natural disasters, insulation in the automotive industry, garden liners and soil substrates to use on grass roofs. The recycled plastic generated from PPE, such as hard hats, can be re-made into a wide range of plastic products, allowing manufacturers to reduce dependence on virgin plastic – a crucial step in the creation of a circular economy. What’s more, companies that insist on the responsible disposal of PPE and workwear can make the initiative part of their own sustainability roadmap to contribute to a better future.

Is any PPE non-recyclable?

Recycling Lives accepts most PPE and workwear for recycling, except for electrical equipment. Any PPE with an electrical component such as headlamps, electronic ear defenders and LED hi-vis require responsible disposal by a WEEE recycling provision.

Highly contaminated workwear and PPE may not be suitable for recycling. Recycling Lives asks that all garments be clean, dry and free from secondary contamination, although a small amount of dirt is acceptable. Some items, such as usable safety boots or footwear, may be sent overseas to be used in developing countries instead of being recycled.

For more information about how you can use the services of Recycling Lives and support your company’s sustainability strategy, visit Recycling Lives.

Contego Safety Solutions stocks a wide range of corporate workwear, protective clothing and PPE, including our WEARMASTER® range. We also provide a bespoke uniform design and manufacturing service to ensure you get precisely what you are looking for in a company uniform. The friendly and expert team at Contego Safety Solutions is always on hand to give advice and guidance on the right PPE and protective clothing for your needs. Contact us now on 0800 122 3323 or to discuss your requirements.

Published on 13 July 2021


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