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Student’s idea has oil & gas firm’s PPE waste problem covered

Oil rig in the sea

A University of Strathclyde student has helped a global oil and gas firm to cut waste by repurposing old personal protective equipment (PPE).

With more than 20,000 employees worldwide TechnipFMC goes through a large amount of PPE which at the end of its useful life is normally sent to landfill.

As part of a class assignment for her MSc Environmental Entrepreneurship in Practice programme, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering student Louise Thomson, from Dunoon, worked with the company to identify opportunities to reduce waste.

Louise Thomson

She hit upon the idea of sending old protective overalls to survival training centres where they could be used as insulation layers during exercises.

Louise said: “The overalls are not damaged but a bit worn out, or may have old branding on them so they can still find a new lease of life.

“So while they might not be suitable for use for their original purpose of safety and protection, they can be used as undergarments or insulation layers in fire or sea rescue safety training scenarios.”

Better option

TechnipFMC returns the old overalls to its supplier Ross Safety & Survival, who remove the company’s branding then send them to safety training centre operators within the Fire Training Group, including Nutec, RelyOnNutec, Evolve and Array Training.

To date she has helped to prevent 500 used overalls from going to waste.

Louise said: “Recycling of the overalls was a possible route however, after much research and discussion, it was decided reuse was the better option as it proved to be more environmentally friendly and easier to carry out in the time period given for the project.

“With TechnipFMC and Ross Safety & Survival based in Aberdeen along with many survival training centres it made sense to reach out to them.

“Ross Safety & Survival has received in excess of 800 coveralls to donate, so I am still working on finding more survival centres interested in taking some coveralls but knowing that, as a team, we have managed to get more than 500 coveralls rehomed for reuse rather than sent to landfill as waste is a fantastic feeling!

I’d love to see more company reusing their PPE in this kind of way across industry and will consider options for promoting this as part of my assignment.”

Formerly a fashion buyer at a firm in Manchester Louise became disillusioned with her job after seeing the waste created by ‘fast fashion’. She has now set up her own fashion company – White Pepper Apparel – specialising in activewear which aims to provide sustainable clothing.

“It’s a dream for me to run my own company because I do love fashion but I want it to be more sustainable.”

Jenny Davidson of RelyOn Nutec said: “RelyOn Nutec were very grateful to receive a large donation of coveralls from TechnipFMC. We welcome multiple delegates to our facilities every week and so our kit receives constant wear and requires regular replacement.

“This donation of good quality coveralls should last us for a considerable amount of time and has helped us to make welcome cost reductions as we recover from the pandemic. This particular shipment has even had a use that goes beyond our usual training delivery when we used them for a recent photoshoot.”

Louise recently won £500 in a company creation competition run Strathclyde Inspire and is looking at other schemes to raise funding.