Extending the life cycle of linen saves energy and water – and new technology is making this possible

Our techincal director, Paul Hamilton, presented these thoughts on how the laundry sector can continue to use less energy and water to Laundry and Cleaning Today.

All laundries are increasingly aware of the need to reduce, reuse and recycle. While 2020 and 2021 were all about Covid, 2022 will be the year that savvy owners and managers renew and revamp environmental policies.

Until recently, laundries had no choice but to send tonne after tonne of good linen to rag or landfill, simply because it was stained or blemished. Bins were brimming with decent stock, discarded way too early in its lifecycle.

Thankfully technology is advancing, and specialist cleaning from LADA award winners Regenex has become available – meaning that the average operation should be able to cut condemnation of linen, as long as it isn’t ripped or torn, to a quarter of previous levels.

Tough marks such as rust, iodine, fake tan and mould can now be lifted, restoring whites and colours to high standards, without weakening fabric with harsh processes.

Reducing new orders and re-using existing stock ranks more highly in the Hierarchy of Waste than recycling. This is because it’s better for the environment to not manufacture something in the first place, and to use what you have for as long as possible. Recycling involves a process, and such processes generate more carbon.

Returning items to stock for many more washes and therefore significantly reducing the need to order as much new linen is especially important when it is considered that 70% of the carbon footprint of an average bedsheet is accounted for in its manufacture, with just 30% attributed to subsequent washings and transportation.

So how much energy and water does Regenex’s gentle, multi-bath process save? It takes 10,000 litres of water and 8kg carbon to manufacture 1kg of new cotton, so if the life of 1kg cotton is doubled, 5,000 litres of water and 4kg carbon is saved.

These numbers become very powerful when applied to the kind of tonnage handled by an average laundry – and especially combined with wider efforts to reduce energy and water use during washing processes.

As more laundries step up, Regenex is working with them to find new ways of making processing as efficient as possible – for example, companies getting together to share transport carbon costs. Dyeing tired whites – for example, for spa towels – is also a burgeoning option offered.

Though this feature is about saving water and carbon, the other benefit of extending the life cycle of linen is that it saves money. The cost of sending stained linen for processing is typically a third of the cost of ordering new. This, too, is important at a time of unprecedented rises in all-round costs.

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