It was a busy pre-Christmas period for the Regenex team, not least because news of our commercial cleaning innovation started to hit the headlines. So much so, our managing director David Midgley was asked to pen a piece for one of the UK’s leading facilities management magazines – Tomorrow’s FM. With textile waste catching up with single-use plastics as a focus of public outrage, he addressed some difficult questions for the hospitality laundry sector, in his feature. If you missed the full page write-up, you can read it in full, here…
The environmental cost of the cotton industry has burst into our collective consciousness this year, with the focus firmly on fast fashion.
Jaw-dropping statistics – such as the 3,400 gallons of water needed to make a pair of jeans – shocked the nation in a recent BBC documentary, Fashion’s Dirty Secrets, presented by Stacey Dooley.
Debate that centred on the devastation of plastic in our oceans has quickly widened to the pollutants involved in cotton manufacturing, and the mighty watercourses sucked dry by our demands for more clothes.
The wider world is rightly demanding something be done, and quickly. And as clothing brands are held to account, the often questionable textile habits of the hospitality laundry sector remain in the shadows – for now.
But forward thinkers in our industry realise it’s only a matter of time before they too will come under greater scrutiny, and are trying to make improvements before this happens.
Almost 300,000 tonnes of CO2
The business of washing hotels’ dirty linen is vast. The Carbon Trust calculates that almost 750,000 tonnes of bedclothes and towels – plus textiles from the healthcare sector – are being processed annually, producing 281,500 tonnes of CO2.
However, 70% of the carbon footprint of an imported polycotton bedsheet relates to its manufacture – andjust 30% is generated by its lifetime of being washed, ironed and transported.
Many laundry houses – of which there are 134 – are fuel and cost efficient, operating a Continuous Batch Washing (CBW) system that’s recognised as a great example of Best Available Technique (BAT).
Cleaning processes, using low energy, low temperature and low water uses, are generally as good as they can be – and effective for the vast majority of sheets, towels, napkins, tablecloths and chef’s whites passing through the system.
Good linens being condemned
But the scandal – as Stacey Dooley would see it – is in what gets thrown away. Tonne upon tonne of stained fabrics – marked by mildew, rust, fake tan, food or anything else – is being condemned to rag far too early in the item’s economic journey.
Marked, but otherwise still-serviceable, fabrics make up a significant proportion of the UK’s 77,000 tonnes of commercial textile waste every year, with at least half going to landfill according to the waste charity WRAP.
Methods generally tried for lifting stains, including high-temperature washing, are effective in as little as 30% of cases. This means that the industry must find better ways to make linen last for longer – and advancements in technology are beginning to make this possible.
A total of 10% of a typical laundry’s turnover goes on top-up stock but much of this outlay is needless. If condemned items are simply stained – and not ripped, torn or truly worn out – 75 to 80% of them can be recovered through specialist cleaning.
As well as the obvious cost savings, better habits in this area have the potential to boost hotels’ green credentials, which are increasingly important to potential guests seeking out hotel chains that they know to operate ethically.
Gone are the days when a bathroom notice – imploring customers to ‘think about the environment’ before leaving a barely-used towel on the floor for washing – was enough to reassure guests that their hotel cared about our planet.
In 2019, the public will expect much more – and the spotlight will be on our sector, to see that we step up to this challenge.
Regenex has developed a gentle, multi-bath cleaning system that successfully recovers 75 to 80% of condemned linens. We are currently offering free 400 kilo trials to any new customer.