How hotel linen waste will be the next ‘fast fashion’ scandal

We were delighted to be asked by Luxury Hospitality magazine to talk about customers’ heightened interest in the eco-credentials of hotels. here are our technical director Paul Hamilton’s words in full.

Textile waste is all over the news, and our national consciousness. The impact of ‘fast fashion’ on the planet is becoming almost as high profile as the devastation of single-use plastics in our oceans.

A few months ago, the wider public was not particularly aware that every pair of jeans they bought required a staggering 3,400 gallons of water to manufacture.

But growing interest from the media – including Stacey Dooley’s BBC investigation into the environmental cost of the cotton industry, Fashion’s Dirty Secrets – has put this shameful situation firmly in the spotlight.

Now we are seeing environmentally-conscious consumers shunning needless purchases – and embracing initiatives such as Oxfam’s Second Hand September, in which people were urged to say ‘no to new’ clothing.

Attention is currently on fashion, but it stands to reason that heightened consumer interest in making the most of textiles, and not being wasteful, will lead to the habits of the hospitality sector coming under more scrutiny.

Those same people – the ones consciously avoiding new jeans – are, after all, looking at your hotel online and wondering whether to spend their money with you.

Textiles are a tricky area for hoteliers. Every establishment requires huge amounts of linen – which must remain pristine in condition, to meet customer demands and expectations.

Repeated surveys put spotlessly-clean bedding as a top priority for hotel guests, above pretty much anything else, so trying to foster a culture of ‘make do and mend’ is not viable.

However, things are changing and forward-thinking companies know they can get ahead of the curve and develop more careful and even thrifty habits in their laundry practices – whether this is handled inhouse or outsourced – without compromising on dazzling whites.

Advances in technology are making it easier to save stained and discoloured linen that would otherwise have to go in the bin. This means there is no excuse for to be wasteful.

So, what would Stacey Dooley find, if she took a film crew into Britain’s hotel laundries?

Stacey would learn that each hotel, or chain, or commercial laundry, throws a lot of linen away – and spends significant amounts of money on replacing it.  For specialist laundry houses this outlay accounts for 10% of their whole turnover, on average.

Some of that cotton and poly cotton is truly worn out – but a significant proportion has been carelessly condemned too soon in its life cycle, because of marks or discolouration.

And this is where the investigative journalist would start to take notice. “So, this linen would be absolutely fine for many washes to come, were it not for the stains?” she would ask.

The simple answer is “Yes.”

And the environmental cost of this ‘early exit’ – textiles ragged or sent to landfill, long before the end of their potentially serviceable life – is staggering.

Particularly so, when it’s considered that 70% of the carbon footprint of an item of linen is accounted for in its manufacture. All the washing, ironing and transportation that comes afterwards only takes up 30%.

This situation becomes a full-on scandal, in Stacey’s eyes, when it’s revealed that 75-80% of such items could be cleaned – or re-dyed – and returned to stock for many months or even years to come.

Taking care and attention to make the most of linen is one way that hotels and laundries can very easily make a real dent to their carbon footprint – and be seen to be leading the field.

Adopting such a stance could be good for business as well as the environment and more hotels asking questions of their linen suppliers, and encouraging them to develop better habits. Even when laundry is handled offsite, practice – good or bad – reflects on the hotel in question.

One recent survey by global measurement and analytics company Nielsen found 66% of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable brands – rising to three quarters, among Millennials – and this extends to hotels as well as consumer goods.

This percentage has grown in recent years, suggesting that customers’ interest in eco-credentials of hotels is set to continue, and anything that companies can do to demonstrate good practice will position them well in the years ahead.

So many eco-improvements need investment and staff time – from installing solar panels to banning plastic from the breakfast buffet.

But textile waste can be tackled head-on, saving money and reaping instant, highly-measurable carbon footprint benefits.

Regenex is offering a FREE trial of 400 kilos of linen to any new customer. Contact us today to discuss your requirements.


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