Jamie Edmonds is an environmental manager for Kier Utilities. Since 2013, he has worked with The Eastern Alliance for Safe & Sustainable Transport (EASST) to donate a range of items from PPE, to shoes and even a 26-tonne lorry.
Here, Jamie explains why he does this and that anything can be donated, you just need to connect the dots and find the connections.
“In 2013, Kier acquired May Gurney, which is where I worked. May Gurney had over 12,000 employees and it was decided at an early stage that the May Gurney brand, where possible, would be changed to Kier. This was for all corporate branding, which included 1000s of items of branded clothing and PPE.
I realised that this meant that thousands of useable items of branded clothing, both old and brand-new, were going to be thrown away. This was not only a massive waste of money, but also it was a shameful waste as a lot of the items were still in their packaging. So, I made it my mission to find a good use for these items, at the very least the brand-new ones.
Eventually, I found EASST which works in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. It is a UK-registered charity whose mission is to save lives and prevent injuries by making road transport safer, greener and more sustainable for future generations.
I spoke with the director, Emma MacLennan and told her we have thousands of items coming in. Emma was very excited about this and saw huge potential for the hi-visibility clothing to be put to good use in Moldova as part of the charity’s road safety projects. It was great, Emma had said we could send both the new and used stuff that we had.
The new stuff was simple because it was boxed up and we had quantities and weights sorted so it could be sent out. The used items were a bit more difficult as we needed to ensure they were clean and ready to be used again. Initially, we started working with the prison service and they were able to use the items as part of their own engagement programme for inmates. However, this became more and more difficult with different restrictions that came in.
Our employees started taking it home and washing it in their own washing machines, which isn’t what we had set out to happen in the first place, but it was great that people really wanted to help and be on the journey with us.
Our first batch of clothing went out in 2014 and had around 5,000 items in it – anything from coats to high vis vests and trousers. Largely this went to farmers in Moldova, who still use the traditional horse and cart method of transport there. Although they do have a motorway, which they drive the horse and cart down, in the evenings as well as the daytime.
As you can imagine, there have been some horrendous accidents there, so I went over and met with the American ambassador who sponsored the funding of the shipping of the items and I also met with the chief of police for the area. We had a ceremony and a few local people joined and we were able to start handing some items out, it was great to see where the items were going, how they were going to be used and the difference they would make.
We continued to run it and then when some of our alliance partners or subcontractors had items they wanted to donate we would work with EASST on this. When some of our bigger projects got involved they donated items in fairly large quantities and since, we have donated around 8000 more items.
These go to all different countries, we have sent some to Ukraine, Georgia, Tajikistan and Armenia. It’s often where there are major road projects taking place to provide the workforce with high vis clothing and it has also gone to the emergency services to use.
We also ran recycling centres for local councils, and as part of this we collected in children’s car seats and booster seats. We went through a process of approval for the second-hand car seats with the AA. We cleaned the approved ones and sent over 100 car seats to Moldova and Tajikistan to be used in a car seat library projects, where parents can borrow a car seat and bring it back when their children grow out of it.
There’s a lot of partners involved in this and Fire Aid donated a fire truck to Moldova. It’s all done through liaising with EASST who will help us find somewhere for the items. Working with them we found a home for a 26-tonne lorry which Fire Aid used to take items out to Eastern Europe for their fire training exercises.
You can find a home for near enough anything if you make the right collections. For me, morally it is the right thing to do so we’re not continuing to waste items and throw them away to end up on a landfill. Also, these items can help other people and save lives which is incredible. They can do a lot of good for others which is why we continue to do it and we continue to work with EASST.”
This year, Kier launched its Building for a Sustainable World framework. The framework concentrates on two key components: environmental sustainability and social sustainability and across these components there are 10 key focus areas. One focus area for environmental is ‘zero waste’ this our pledge to produce no avoidable waste by 2035 and our operations will be single-use plastic free by 2030.