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How Finnair Is Recycling Old Uniforms Into Park Benches

Dec 14, 2023Dec 14, 2023

Finnair has developed a revolutionary recycling campaign turning old uniforms into composite materials used to realize outdoor furniture.

Reducing the environmental footprint of an airline is no cakewalk. However, some airlines are developing unordinary strategies to further their efforts to become progressively more sustainable. Finnair, for instance, has gone the extra mile to boost its commitment to a greener aviation industry by finding a very original way of recycling worn-out uniforms.

One of the most urgent points on any airline's agenda is finding strategies to reduce their negative environmental impact.

Besides investing in modern, fuel-efficient aircraft and resorting to sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), some carriers are thinking outside the box to find alternative ways of achieving their sustainability goals. For instance, Finnair, Finland's flag carrier, has launched a new recycling campaign involving crew uniforms.

By cooperating with the Finnish work-clothing manufacturer Image Wear, Finnair will turn old uniforms previously used by ground and cabin crew into outdoor items. Merja Lindberg, Finnair Uniform Manager, explained how Image Wear leverages its expertise to turn worn-out uniforms into raw materials that can be later used in composite materials. These then become part of new, hard-wearing products, including tables and benches.

It is hard to believe that the stylish uniforms worn by Finnair ground and cabin crew will one day become part of an outdoor piece of furniture. At this point, you might be wondering how it is possible that the airline's signature clothing becomes part of a hard-wearing product.

The starting point of Finnair's revolutionary recycling strategy is worn-out uniforms. Using sustainable manufacturing practices, Image Wear blends shredded textiles from such uniforms with recycled plastic particles, thus creating new composite materials. These are made of 48% recycled textile, 48% recycled plastic, and 4% binders and can be shaped into various items specifically designed for outdoor use.

Commenting on Finnair's new recycling campaign, Kati Tukiainen, Image Wear Responsibility Manager, underlined how the advantages of composite materials are manifold.

Most importantly, however, composite products are durable, with an estimated lifespan of up to 50 years. Moreover, these items can be recycled and turned into new products at the end of their lifecycle. Therefore, recycling worn-out clothes prevent them from ending up as waste and progressively extends their lifecycle in new different forms.

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Uniforms play a central role in shaping an airline's brand image. What do you know about Finnair's?

The Finnish flag carrier introduced uniforms in 1947, when Finnair's predecessor, Aero O/Y, counted six female cabin crew. Male stewards indeed started to be employed later, in 1959. The airline's signature dark blue suit was designed by a tailor at the men's tailor shop in the famous Stockmann department store in Helsinki. The airline's current uniform was designed by Ritva-Liisa Pohjalainen and was introduced in 2011.

Finnair's current uniforms primarily aim at the comfort and well-being of those who wear them. Additionally, these uniforms have been designed to be as durable as possible to meet the airline's sustainability principles. Finnair's uniform strategy supports the airline's aim to be an active member of Finland's sustainable and circular economy.

If you are passionate about airlines' uniforms and would like to have a closer look at Finnair's signature clothing over the last 100 years, make sure not to miss the airline's unique display at Helsinki Airport as the airline celebrates its centenary this year.

Do you think Finnair's recycling strategy will become an example for other carriers in the future? Let us know by clicking on the comment button below!

Journalist - Giacomo has almost three years of experience as an aviation journalist. At the University of Surrey, he pursued a master's in Air Transport Management. His main areas of expertise include network and fleet planning, airline partnerships, and airline strategy. Currently based in Italy.

Do you think Finnair's recycling strategy will become an example for other carriers in the future? Let us know by clicking on the comment button below! IATA/ICAO Code:Airline Type:Hub(s):Year Founded:Alliance:CEO:Country: