Why it’s time for a rethink on reuse

Paul Hamilton, technical director, Regenex wrote this feature for the June 2022 issue of Tomorrow’s Care magazine. Here it is in full …

UK businesses and organisations, including those in the care sector, have developed a keen focus on recycling in recent years.

In our efforts to ramp up our environmental policies, we make sure our waste goes to the right place, and that it avoids landfill wherever possible.

This is good, commendable practice. But did you know that reusing the resources you have, or not buying them in the first place, is even better?

The concept of reuse is really beginning to permeate all sectors. Getting the most out of every resource at work – whatever that item is – represents exemplary practice.

When we recycle items, another process is always involved. Textiles are ragged for new purposes, and glass is melted in a furnace and re-made. All this takes energy and therefore more carbon.

Developing thrifty habits and keeping and using things for longer is far preferable. That’s why reuse is listed as the second best option for what to do with something instead of simply throwing it ‘away’, in the well-established and respected Waste Hierarchy.

This ranking of waste management options, by what is most beneficial for the environment, is endorsed by the UK Government and others, and recognised as guidance for best practice.

Recycling is only the third best process on the list of five, followed by other forms of recovery and disposal to landfill or incineration.

So, what can the care sector keep and use for longer? This is difficult, given the high standards that must be maintained, and the necessary disposables involved across operations.

You will be able to make a list. This is likely to include textiles. It can be comparatively easy to make improvements in the management of linen – from bedding and towels to tableware and staff uniforms.

Historically, much linen has been condemned too early in its lifecycle, simply because it is marked or discoloured.

Now, with advancing technology, that linen can be rescued, revived, and returned to stock for many more washes.

Regenex can successfully clean up to 80% of the most heavily marked linen, removing stains caused by food, iodine, rust, mould, and other substances. When blemishes cannot be fully removed, dyeing or over-dyeing is an option, for example, renewing towels by colouring them in rich hues.

Though some water and energy are involved in Regenex’s multi-bath process, it is much less than the carbon associated with the manufacture of new linen – which is calculated at 8kg carbon per 1kg polycotton.

A total of 70% of the carbon footprint of each item of linen is accounted for in its manufacture and transportation. Subsequent washing and moving between sites amount to just 30%, so it makes sense to use every sheet, pillowcase, and hand towel for as long as possible.

Taking steps to conserve the resources you have as an organisation is the responsible mindset for the environment, of course, but it also makes good business sense, for public, private, and third-sector operations.

Buying less top-up stock saves money as well as carbon. Sending linen to Regenex for treatment is typically less than half the cost of ordering replacement items – potentially more in these times of rising prices regarding both the cost of raw cotton and shipping.

Furthermore, organisations with robust sustainability policies are the ones that will thrive and prosper in the years ahead.

Banks, other lenders, and investors, as well as potential commercial partners awarding contracts, are already favouring companies and companies with a genuine desire to do the right thing by the planet and an action plan to prove it.

So, will we look back on 2022 as a turning point, the year that the simple re-use of commodities begins to get the recognition it deserves? We at Regenex hope so!

Email paulhamilton@bulmerandlumb.com to find out more.




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