School uniform recycling project making a difference in Chadwell St Mary 

A school uniform recycling project is making a big impact in the Borough of Thurrock by providing school uniforms to families in need. 

The uniform project run by the 180 Project Team at Community Church, collects used school uniform items, such as blazers, skirts, trousers and shirts, from generous donations. Uniforms have been donated by M&S, but the main source of uniforms is donations from families whose children have outgrown their uniforms.  

The school uniform project was launched as an ad-hoc initiative as part of the 180 Project in May 2022 and has continued to grow, with 30-35 families accessing the project each month, peaking at over 70 families during summer events. Another key element to its success is that the programme is available to everyone, with no need for a referral. By reusing school uniforms, the project is helping to ensure that all children have access to the resources they need to succeed in their education and attend school in full uniform. 

The uniforms are stored in a church cupboard and laid out on tables on a Friday afternoon/Saturday morning every month. During this time volunteers sort out any donated uniforms, then pack away at the end of the session in preparation for the following month. The scheme is currently run by church members, but the team is looking to recruit volunteers from their other activities too. Families who have previously accessed their other church projects are also coming forward offering to serve in this way. 

The environmental impact of this project is also a high priority for the team. By recycling used school uniforms, the 180 Project is also tackling the climate emergency by stopping good quality clothing from going to landfill as well as helping families who may not be able to afford to purchase new items with the soaring costs of school uniforms. 

In the UK, an estimated 350,000 tonnes of clothes end up in landfill every year. Encouraging families to use second-hand uniforms can reduce waste and bring down emissions from manufacturing new garments while making it cost-effective for families.  

Elle Knight, Manager of the 180 Project Team has been delighted with the results. She said: “The response from the community has been amazing. 

“I am grateful to everyone who has donated their used school uniforms, and to the small group of volunteers who work so hard to prepare them for distribution. The fact that we have been able to help so many families in need is a testament to the generosity and kindness of the people of Thurrock. Thank you also to all the people that take the time to donate outgrown uniforms. We are only as good as our donations.”