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Glam accessories from life rafts reap rewards for Navy’s premier charity – and save the environment

19 January 2024
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Two tonnes of waste have been spared the landfill and turned into upmarket fashion accessories thanks to a unique recycling project by the Royal Navy and its principal charity.

Dubbed ‘life rafts to handbags’ the programme converts obsolete/out-of-date Royal Navy life-saving equipment – rafts, jackets and the like – into designer handbags, gym bags, back packs, wallets, laptop cases and passport holders among other accessories.

So far more than 230 items have been snapped up, raising more than £5,700 for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity and giving design/manufacturing skills and employment to disadvantaged young people through Gosport-based charity Oarsome Chance.

Not only does the initiative spare unnecessary waste ending up in landfill, it spares the Navy the time and cost of disposal, and encourages sailors to think about the environment and other potential opportunities for re- or ‘upcycling’.

The first wave of goods sold out almost immediately upon launch at the end of April 2023, with a constant flow of sales above expectations since.

“We’ve managed to take difficult or impossible-to-recycle materials, materials destined for a landfill, and make incredible products with new value,” said former Royal Navy sailor Bob Field, who heads the project at the RNRMC – and would love to see it widened.

“I believe this is just the tip of the iceberg, it would be excellent if this was the way forward with other pieces of kit across all of defence.”

The initiative was shortlisted for two categories in 2023’s National Recycling Awards: ‘Circular Economy Initiative’ and ‘Recycled Project of the Year’ but lost out in both sadly.

Each accessory is unique – hand crafted from a different part of a piece of equipment – with prices starting currently at £45. They are available from: https://www.rnrmc.org.uk/shop

I believe this is just the tip of the iceberg, it would be excellent if this was the way forward with other pieces of kit across all of defence.

Former Royal Navy sailor Bob Field

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