What to Do With Old Scrubs and Nurse Uniforms [Textile Recycling]
Scrubs are a significant investment whether you’re buying them as an individual or healthcare organisation. Not only do they cost a lot, but you may also have spent quite a bit of time and effort laundering and disinfecting them.
But when they’ve outlived their usefulness - what then?
Maybe your healthcare organisation mandated a change in dress code and you’ve now got a bunch of old scrubs and uniforms that you can’t use.
Instead of sending them to the landfill, what else could you do with old scrubs and nursing uniforms?
We’ll run down a few different alternatives for you in this article.
Why Recycle Your Old Scrubs and Uniforms?
Singapore’s textile recycling rate stood at a low of 4% in 2020, and our only landfill is set to run out of space by 2035.
Part of the problem is our consumption rate. As an affluent society, we tend to buy a lot more clothing, shoes, and fabric than we really need.
The Covid-19 pandemic has also exacerbated the problem by increasing the use of single-use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), putting the worldwide medical waste issue in the spotlight.
By recycling used medical scrubs and uniforms that are in good condition, we stand to:
- Reduce our overall waste to landfill
- Lower our carbon footprint by reprocessing clothing into raw materials
- Aid non-profit organisations, healthcare facilities, and other beneficiaries in need
What Kind of Scrubs and Uniforms Can Be Recycled or Repurposed?
Any nursing scrubs and uniforms in good condition can be repurposed. This means the garments should:
- Be washed clean
- Not be torn or stained
- Not be contaminated with mildew
- Preferably not be embroidered with personalisations such as someone’s name
But what if your unwanted clothing don’t entirely fit all those criteria? We outline a few possible ways to repurpose your clothing in the next section.
How to Recycle, Reuse, and Repurpose Old Scrubs and Uniforms
We’ve created this list with healthcare institutions and smaller clinics in mind, but we’ve also included a few tips that might be helpful for individuals.
Before employing any of these, make sure your scrubs and uniforms are clean and disinfected -- this will help the whole process go a lot smoother. Contaminated clothes have a chance of contaminating other clothes, which is then counterproductive for your environmental sustainability efforts.
Here’s what you can do with those used scrubs and uniforms:
1. Collaborate with Nursing Homes, Hospices, and Non-Profit Organisations
Scrubs and uniforms are by no means a negligible line item in every organisation’s budget. These items also have to be replaced every so often for hygiene purposes.
Donating good-quality hospital scrubs and nursing uniforms to organisations in need can help free up funds for other purposes, such as medical equipment or better care.
Merchfoundry can help with this by setting up collection stations at your organisation. We already work with non-profit organisations and charities to help them with their workwear needs, so we can identify the appropriate places where the hospital scrub donations and uniforms will be appreciated.
2. Export to Other Nations or Reprocess Them Into Raw Materials
Singapore is still a small country, so there’s a limit to the number of places in need of used scrubs and uniforms. One alternative to local donations is to export the garments to underdeveloped nations.
If the workwear can’t be re-used, there’s also the option of upcycling the fabric into industrial cleaning cloths. This depends on the composition of the material, however. Larger clothing (e.g. XL sizes) and absorbent clothes with a high cotton content are more likely to be recycled.
(Again, Merchfoundry’s corporate textile recycling program can help your organisation with this.)
3. Refashion Scrubs Into Other Clothing
Granted, this takes some skill with the needle (or sewing machine) to pull off. But if you happen to be a savvy seamstress or seamster, it may be a good idea to turn those old uniforms into other pieces of clothing.
Bandanas, sleeveless tops, comfy pajamas are all great ideas here. The only limits are your skill level and imagination.
If your scrubs are simply too worn out to turn into another piece of clothing, it might be worthwhile considering less fabric-intensive options -- like this DIY Tawashi Sponge. Any old shirt, pants, socks, or loose piece of cloth will suffice.
4. Sell Them in the Secondhand Market
This method takes a bit more time and is recommended only for individuals who don’t mind venturing into the world of negotiations.
Carousell is one of the most popular options for letting go of used clothing, but you can also tap on social media and flea markets. (Seedly has a great article on selling secondhand clothing here.)
Just bear in mind that good photos of your wares make all the difference in the online market. You’ll want to make sure your clothes are clean, neatly pressed or ironed, hung up nicely, and well-lit before snapping those shots.