Design for Disassembly – A Circular Approach for Work Uniforms
When designing a uniform, uninformed or poor choices at the design stage can hinder the garment's ability to enter the circular economy. According to Peter Maddox, director of the UK Waste and Resources Action Programme ‘80% of the impact of a garment is decided at the design stage’.
Let's unpack what this means for a custom uniform program. It all starts at the very beginning – the uniform brief. Here you need to express your desire to consider textile-to-textile recycling. If you are working with a uniform manufacturer with in-depth capability, they will “design for disassembly”.
What is Design for Disassembly?
“Design for disassembly” refers to the process in which the corporate uniform is designed to ensure that the fibre in the garment can be efficiently recovered and recycled at its end of life.
Designing for Disassembly Best Practice
In the last few years, our production team has been expanding our Design for Disassembly capability. Designing the garments with the end goal of recycling in mind, means that the selection of fabrics, hardware and trimmings are carefully considered to ensure the recycling process is easier, faster and cheaper.
This is a very real option for our clients who work with us on custom manufactured uniform programs – and we’re very excited to be bringing this capability to the corporate market. Here are just some of the ways our team can improve the recyclability of uniform garments at the design and manufacturing stage.
Currently, textiles with a blend of fibres (ie. polyester cotton blend) will limit your recycling method options. Choosing mono fibres for the entire product, including stitching and decorative trimming, will impact the recyclability of the uniform garment. This is not always practical for every industry, due to performance or safety requirements.
Uniform designers can minimise hardware (buttons, zippers, clips) or ensure they are easy to remove. There are a number of ways the hardware can be fixed to the garment in a way that is easily recovered for reuse. Check out the latest innovative thread we now offer.
Opt for attached logos, such as 3D silicone, embroidered, or printed patches, which can be easily removed (de-branded) at the garments end of life.
Choose to use safe dyes and finishes to avoid toxic chemicals being circulated through the recycling process. Our manufacturing partners, and their processing factories (eg. textiles and parts, washing, dyeing tanning, printing) are rigorously audited by our production and sustainability team.
When considered at the design stage, as part of a custom uniform program, the cost of these design decisions is often comparable with alternative options.
Garment hardware and specific materials such as buttons, zippers, interlinings and backings, labels, buckles and trimmings need to be removed before recycling. This can be labour-intensive.
What Can You Do Now?
The cost of disassembly can be prohibitive for many companies. This involves a multitude of partners, logistics and labour who need to be remunerated. The commercial reality is that recycling has a cost – and someone needs to be willing to pay it.
One innovation that simplifies the process and is very cost effective to implement is utilising a new, innovative thread that melts under special thermal conditions.
This thread can be used to sew the entire garment, allowing the garment to be quickly disassembled on a commercial scale in order to recover the fabric for recycling.
The thread can also be used to secure logo patches or trimmings such as buttons, zippers or size/care labels to the garment – making de-branding (for reuse) or disassembling the garment (for recycling) easier, faster and cheaper.
For more on designing recycling-friendly uniforms or recycling your existing uniforms, visit www.uniform.com.au/uniform-recycling.