Old liferafts up-cycled to help charity

Old liferafts are being turned into what the Royal Navy describes as high-street fashion to raise money for families.

Out-of-date rafts, fire hoses and other life-saving kit are being converted into handbags, sports bags, lap top cases (pictured left) and wallets to raise money.

Beyond helping the families of Royal Navy and Royal Marines personnel, the up-cylcing project ensures unwanted kit does not end up in landfill as it once did.

And, through Gosport-based charity Oarsome Chance, it’s training disadvantaged young people from around the Portsmouth area, giving them design and manufacturing skills.

“Not every project needs new technology, a huge investment or a massive efficiency. It’s relatively small – but it makes a difference: reducing landfill, reducing cost, generating money for the Royal Navy’s primary charity and supporting young people in the local community,” says warrant officer Lee Reeves, who’s delighted to see the initiative come to fruition.

The project has been driven by former warrant officer Bob Field who now works for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity in Portsmouth.

He noticed that the RNLI was turning some of its old kit into merchandise to raise money – and wondered if the Royal Navy could do likewise.

Field and Reeves worked with Oarsome Chance to make use of the unwanted survival equipment. The Gosport charity already up-cycled old sails, canvas, ropes and other seafaring items, crafting them into wallets, bags and bracelets.

“I knew from my last job in the Royal Navy that the MOD disposed of disused items in varying ways, including some going to landfill at a cost,” says Field.

“With the help of my colleagues, I thought there’s got to be a creative solution here. Through this project we’ve managed to take difficult or impossible to recycle materials, materials destined for a landfill, and make incredible products with new value. The value is not just funding for RNRMC, but also for the teams of young people who are helping make this happen.

“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.”

It’s taken four years to reach the point where the collection can be produced and sold in sufficient numbers.

“This project is a great example of innovation, creativity and collaboration – all skills and qualities we aim to encourage and develop within the Royal Navy,” says Rear Admiral Paul Beattie, who’s in charge of the Navy’s Climate Change and Sustainability plan.

“It’s a shining light of how small projects can achieve benefit for many – within the Royal Navy but more broadly for charities, local people and of course, for the benefit of the planet.”

Each accessory is unique – hand crafted from a different part of a raft or hose (or both). Items range from a passport holder (£20) through laptop case (£40) and various bags to a top-of-the-range rolltop backpack (£150). They are available for purchase online.

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