Securing The Future.

Rail Operator Northern Gets Sustainability On Track With Avena

Northern Railway uses security & recycling specialist Avena to process 10,000+ KG of end-of-life uniform & workwear securely and sustainably.

As the second largest train operator in the UK, Northern purchases large volumes of workwear, with tens of thousands of garments being worn by its personnel at any one time. Due to staff turnover and general wear and tear, the company is faced with the challenge of disposing of 10 tons of workwear per year, which raises two questions: how can they protect their brand, and how can they minimise the environmental impact of textile waste?

This is a problem that many companies face, so let’s take a look at how Northern found a solution.

Protecting the brand and the environment

Many items of Northern’s workwear carry the company’s logo as a means of quickly identifying authorised persons in a restricted access areas of depots and stations. While donating used clothing to charities or clothing banks is considered an environmentally friendly option by some, this would mean that Northern-branded workwear would become available to the general public and would ultimately end up in landfill later down the line.

If an unauthorised member of the public should choose to wear discarded workwear as a means of gaining access to controlled areas, this could put the company’s brand at serious risk of damage. Deliberate or accidental damage to rail network property could cause systems to fail and endanger lives, while the presence of untrained, unauthorised persons could lead to accidental injury or death.

As an environmentally responsible company with a commitment to reducing their environmental impact, Northern also knew they couldn’t simply send 10,000+ kg of end-of-life uniform & workwear to landfill each year.

Recycling was an option, but they wanted a company that could service the 25 depots and train crew centres across their network, maximise the recycling potential of their discarded garments and safeguard their brand and the interests of their stakeholders.

While many textile shredding companies could offer some form of ‘secure destruction’ and recycling companies could process most of the reusable fibres, Northern needed one company that could guarantee both.

SECUREBRAND: Secure garment shredding and recycling

The answer to their problem was found in SECUREBRAND® an innovative and specialised service from Avena designed to provide companies with peace of mind that their brand and the environment are both in safe hands.

How does SECUREBRAND work for Northern?

  • Avena supplies each of their 25 sites with secure consoles for the disposal of discarded workwear.
  • Regular, scheduled visits are made by security-vetted Avena personnel to empty the consoles.
  • The waste garments are loaded into an unmarked vehicle, protected with CCTV and real-time satellite tracking, for the journey back to the Avena facility.
  • The waste garments are sorted and then fed by security-vetted personnel into an industrial shredding machine, which reduces the garments to thin strips.
  • The shredded material is then baled and sent to a textile recycling facility, where it is processed according to Avena’s three-tier ‘zero-waste-to-landfill’ policy.
  • The customer is given documentation that records the number and weight of collections, allowing them to produce evidence in the event of an environmental audit.
  • Avena also produces Environmental Impact Statements, which inform the customer of the calculated reduction in CO2 emissions resulting from processing their workwear rather than sending it to landfill.

What is Avena’s three-tier ‘zero-waste-to-landfill’ policy?

While it is often impossible to recapture and reuse every last piece of discarded workwear, Avena has developed a three-tier system that by segregating textile waste, both maximises its potential and reduces the amount that cannot be effectively reused.

The first tier of this process separates out the highest-quality fibres. These can be respun into fresh yarn, which is then made into new textiles.

The second tier is comprised of lower-quality fibres. These can be used to manufacture geotextiles (another product with clear environmental benefits), upholstery padding, and acoustic panels for vehicle interiors and office screens.

The third tier – which is an extremely small percentage of the total waste – is used to generate sustainable energy.

Can all workwear be recycled?

Not all fabrics are suitable for recycling, but workwear manufacturers are increasingly aware of their responsibility to produce sustainable products and this is changing. This also extends to the number of fixtures on a garment – zips, buttons, studs and non-recyclable closures – as these will have to be removed before recycling; too many fixtures make a garment less cost-effective to recycle.

While Avena will have evaluated all workwear for recyclability during the initial stages, any garments that are wet, soiled or contaminated with mould will render them unsuitable for recycling. Avena therefore works closely with customers to ensure personnel discard workwear correctly.


Are you responsible for disposing of end-of-life workwear in your organisation? Are you challenged by brand security and sustainable disposal? Not all Avena customers are as large as Northern Railway, but SECUREBRAND is tailored to your scale and needs.

Speak to an expert for a no-obligation discussion of your requirements, or fill in our online contact form and a member of our team will contact you within 24 hours.


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