When looking after hotel linen, relegating recycling saves carbon and money

Our technical director, Paul Hamilton, wrote this piece for Luxury Hospitality Magazine recently about the under-appreciated magic of re-use. Are you convinced yet? Read on …

The hospitality industry used to ‘do its duty’ to the environment by recycling old linen for rag, rather than sending it straight to landfill. 

But this attitude is no longer enough, as the business world rightly demands ever-more stringent standards regarding the disposal of unwanted textiles.

Progressive players in the leisure sector are already moving away from recycling as a default for material that seems only fit for the bin.

This is good news when it is considered that global recycling markets are currently saturated, and capacity for processing can be hard to find. 

Quite simply, it is time to relegate recycling. But, how and why? Read on.

While recycling still has a place in the management of waste, it should not be a first choice solution for textiles that would still be fit for purpose, if they were not stained or discoloured.

Recycling is ranked only at only number 42 on a list of 82 possible actions to mitigate climate change, according to Project Drawdown. A simpler rating system which also sees recycling as a very mediocre solution is the Hierarchy of Waste Management, endorsed by the UK Government.

After not using the earth’s resources to manufacture something at all, re-using that item for as long as possible is the next best option.

For the cottons and polycottons that dress an average hotel room or holiday let, there are environmentally better ways to deal with the estimated 1,000-plus tonnes that fail to meet inspection in UK laundries each year, rather than throwing them into receptacles marked ‘recycling’.

Off-white or heavily stained items that used to be condemned, can now be revived with specialist treatment to open fibres and remove discoloration. Advancing technology has made this possible — and word is spreading.

As long as pieces are not ripped or torn, tough stains such as fake tan, food, rust or mildew, can be removed, to once again reach the stringent cleanliness standards of the highest-end establishment, for many more washes to come.

Developing a new thriftiness with every item saves both carbon and money, by cutting down on the need to purchase top-up stock, at a time when most businesses are under increasing pressure to lower costs and ramp up environmental credentials.

Enlisting specialist help minimises in-house ‘kill or cure’ washing, and the extra costs associated with the practice, and re-use cuts down on recycling processes — which themselves require another round of water, and carbon emissions..

Keeping the same stock in circulation for much longer leads to a steady and sustainable reduction in outgoings – particularly welcome in the face of rising cost of cottons and polycottons and ongoing disruptions to supply chains.

Looking towards the end of the 2020s and beyond, firms with robust sustainability policies are the ones who will thrive and prosper.

This is because banks, other lenders, and investors — as well as potential commercial partners awarding contracts — are prioritising organisations that are lowering their carbon footprints.

Re-use is slowly but surely taking its rightful place in the management of many materials and working sectors, and commercial linen is no exception. 

Of course, waste material will most likely make its way to that aforementioned recycling bin at some point in their journey — but much, much later..

While recycling still has a place and a purpose, its relegation now feels very real.

Regenex’s free white paper, Loving linen longer: Five carbon and money saving reasons to get the most out of laundry stock, is available to download now.

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