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A uniformly good idea: Belfast council urged to recycle school uniforms as 30,000 dumped each year


30,000 school uniforms are dumped in NI each year

30,000 school uniforms are dumped in NI each year

Alliance MLA Peter McReynolds

Alliance MLA Peter McReynolds

Psychologist Dr Jo Hemmings

Psychologist Dr Jo Hemmings

30,000 school uniforms are dumped in NI each year

More than 30,000 school uniforms that could still be worn are dumped in Northern Ireland every year.

Across the UK, a startling 1.4 million uniforms in good condition were binned last year.

A survey commissioned by label manufacturer My Nametags also found that 68% of families in Northern Ireland own new garments they have never worn.

When it comes to damaged items, nearly half of parents in the country would prefer to throw a garment away than attempt to repair it.

Ex-Belfast Deputy Mayor Peter McReynolds, who wants the city council to take a lead in the recycling of uniforms, said the figures should be a wake-up call.

A motion Mr McReynolds brought to the council in March proposing that it facilitate the reuse of clean and pre-worn school uniforms and PE kits was passed, but little has happened since.

"The motion was aimed at getting maximising awareness. Unfortunately, nothing progressed because of the Covid-19 situation, but the motion is still on the table," he said.

"What we need to do is raise the awareness of people who may no longer need perfectly good uniforms to bring them along and give other families the opportunity to use them.

"When you add up the amount of money being wasted by people simply throwing uniforms out, it's shocking.

"The price of a new school uniform could make such a big difference to so many families.

"There are projects all over the city instrumental in setting up uniform exchanges."

Mr McReynolds said he had supported the Scaffolding Project in east Belfast , the aim of which is to get perfectly good uniforms to families who would otherwise struggle to afford them, since it opened in 2017.

"I would urge everyone who has a school uniform they are no longer in need of to seek out one of the groups and donate rather than throw it away," he added.

"There are many organisations across the country.

"For economic and environmental reasons, more people need to be made aware of the work these groups do in recycling uniforms."

The figures show that 80% of people will only buy new, but 48% donate clothing to charity shops, highlighting the stark disconnect between efforts to reuse and recycle clothing and attitudes to buying clothing second-hand.

The survey also found that the majority (68%) of families in Northern Ireland own new garments they have never worn.

Parents are more likely to buy second-hand for themselves, with over half (54%) stating they have bought pre-owned items for themselves.

Over a third of parents said it was easier to buy new, with one in three parents also suggesting they don't like the thought of their children wearing previously owned clothing. A quarter of mothers and fathers also said they wanted their children to always have the latest things.

Of those who were happy for their children to wear pre-owned clothing, the majority would prefer these to be hand-me-downs from older siblings, as opposed to uniforms bought second-hand, with more than half of parents holding onto outgrown items to pass down to younger siblings.

Commenting on parents' attitudes towards buying second-hand, behavioural psychologist Dr Jo Hemmings said: "The word 'second-hand' has the connotation that somehow parents are not doing the best by their children. 'Brand new' has much more positive connotations.

"Parents know children can be judgmental of each other in terms of clothing.

"We need to teach children about the environment and the fact that the clothes they wear have no impact on their ability to fit in or to be successful."

Belfast Telegraph