Saving money – and looking after the environment – have been two huge topics for the commercial laundry sector in 2018, and these twin concerns will only grow in importance next year.
The industry is worth £1bn annually in the UK, employing more than 31,700 people across 3,700 businesses, so any development to further either agenda, however subtle, has the potential to reap significant rewards.
700,000 tonnes of washing
Hotel customers and hospital staff perhaps don’t think about where cotton and poly/cotton bedsheets, towels, chefs’ whites and medical scrubs go to be cleaned and ironed, but managers responsible for refining processes and costs certainly do.
Every day, 24 hours, lorryloads of linen are moving around the country to and from commercial laundries where load, after load, after load, go through industrial washing machines – 24m items every week, in fact.
In total, this amounts to 743,651 tonnes of washing, mainly for hotels and hospitals, across 134 sites, requiring 1,254 GWh of energy – and producing 281,500 tonnes of CO2.
So what’s next for this sizeable sector? The tricky question of waste – the throwing away of stained items long before the end of their useful life – looms large, especially as scrutiny of the environmental credentials of the textile industry grows.
Ragging good linens, or sending them to landfill, often occurs when laundry houses simply don’t know what to do with a tricky stain. But, as we will see, there is a solution.
The trouble with ‘kill or cure’
Modern methods of Continuous Batch Washing (CBW) are rightly focused on low energy, low temperature and low water use – and this Best Available Technique (BAT) principle gives good results for the vast majority of textiles passing through the system.
But items that are stained or off-colour are causing a headache for laundry houses – and causing them to compromise the environmental and cost efficiencies that they strive so hard to maintain with their regular washes.
Using established ‘kill or cure’ techniques, laundry managers will take linen that needs more work to get it clean and put it though a high-temperature wash. If that doesn’t work, they may try the same again.
This practice is called ‘kill or cure’ for an obvious reason. Fabrics often cannot withstand such heavy-duty processing, and break down – often with the stubborn stain intact.
The typical success rate for ‘kill or cure’ might be as low as 30%, meaning that more time and money is spent on items that ultimately have to be discarded anyway.
Early exit for too many textiles
On average, 10% of laundry companies’ turnover currently goes on top-up stock. Some of that is linen that is truly worn out – but a significant proportion consists of items with stains thought to be impossible to remove.
That’s stock that would be robust and serviceable for many washes to come were it not for marks, stains and discolouration – that can actually be lifted with the right treatment.
This is particularly sobering from an environmental point of view, as well as pure efficiency, when it’s considered that 70% of the carbon footprint of an item of linen is taken up in its manufacture. All the washing, ironing and transportation that comes after manufacture is only 30%.
A staggering 9,750 litres of water are needed to manufacture a single cotton bedsheet. When coupled with other considerations such as the pesticides used on cotton crops, the energy required for the factory processes and transportation, the impact is significant.
What’s next for laundry waste?
We’ve been aware for a long time about the implications of throwing things away, given that there is no such place as ‘away’ – but now as a society we’re increasingly conscious of the environmental cost of making a new one to replace it.
Everyone knows the world can’t sustain our levels of waste – and the UK is lagging behind more progressive countries such as Germany in this respect.
The UK is working towards much better textile recycling and re-use rates – and new generations of more green-minded Millennial managers in healthcare, hospitality and all other relevant sectors will be doing their bit to make sure this happens.
The work of Regenex, our country’s market leader in saving needlessly condemned linen, sits perfectly within this strategy.
How Regenex can deliver a solution
Regenex has pioneered a multi-bath cleaning system that shares heat and steam with textile processes on the same site in Bradford, West Yorkshire.
The treatment, based on forward-looking principles, and developed over many months with independent testing by university scientists, is new to the industry – and already revolutionising the operations of laundries across the UK.
Regenex has built its capacity gradually and is now in a position to take on new customers, potentially saving them thousands of pounds in top-up stock. All laundries have differing buying power and Regenex has developed a calculator tool to allow potential users to see the savings that they could make.
Regenex’s success rate is an impressive 75% to 80% of all condemned items, whether the troublesome stains are ink, rust, mildew, food or fake tan, or any other – and there is no charge for the processing of anything that Regenex cannot rescue.
Regenex is offering a FREE trial of 400g of kilos of linen to any new customer. Contact us today to discuss your requirements.