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Waste not, want not, finds new meaning

Commercial laundries’ recycling initiative will slash CO2 emissions and water consumption

The TSA has teamed up with UKHospitality, WRAP and PCIAW to launch the Infinite Textiles scheme. The scheme will see commercial laundries partnering with their customers to recycle end of life linen and towels from the hospitality, healthcare and leisure industries, with the aim of saving tens of thousands of tonnes of carbon and billions of litres of water every year.

Currently over 6,000 tonnes of hospitality textiles are sent to waste annually. “Infinite Textiles has the potential to put a stop to the waste,” says David Stevens, CEO of the TSA (Textiles Services Association). “If the industries can come together on this key project, we really will be making a difference to the environment. This will be the largest laundry industry textile recycling project in the world.”

When linen is reaching the end of its lifespan in hotels this can be extended through reuse or recycling

Infinite Textiles aims to cover the whole life of the textiles, from sourcing through manufacturing and on to washing and inspection, with laundries and their customers working together to maximise the life of the linen. Only when the product reaches the end of its useful life does it move into the recycling phase. Here it’s inspected, treated and sorted into bales before being delivered to the Infinite Textiles hub in Sunderland. From there the bales go to approved recyclers for turning back into yarn and going on to manufacturers.

The Infinite Textiles numbers make a convincing argument. It has been reported that the energy required for the reuse or recycling process of polyester is only 1.8 per cent of the total energy consumed by the virgin fibre. Similarly, the reuse of one tonne of cotton fibre needs only 2.6 per cent of the energy required for the virgin material.

The growing and harvesting of natural fibres is where the most water is consumed, and the most CO2 emissions occur. For example, the production of one tonne of the nitrogen fertilisers used emits around seven tonnes of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gases. The TSA will administer and manage the scheme, supporting a network of coordinated pick up points for the bales around the UK, making it easier for smaller laundries to take part. The TSA is also providing plenty of support resources, including training and webinars, and setting up an online platform for participants to track volumes and revenue lines.

“Rightly, there’s growing pressure to manage waste streams more responsibly,” says Stevens. “The drive to develop the Infinite Textiles scheme comes not only from our members, but also from their customers, to help support their sustainability objectives. By launching a certifiable scheme now, we stay in front of the curve and demonstrate the benefits of the commercial laundry industry and its circular credentials.”

Infinite Textiles will provide evidence of compliance with the Waste Framework Directive and supports certification with ISO 14001 and BS 8001. The scheme is allied with the Recycled Claim Standard (RCS) and compliant with circular economy certification. It is audited by UKAS-accredited certification bodies.


Let’s find ways to stop hospitality’s linen ending up in landfill

Housekeeping best practice

Beyond the obvious issues of sustainability, those who process cotton and polyester products, both linen products suppliers and commercial laundries, are urging hotels and other hospitality businesses to treasure their linen stock.

The prices of raw cotton, oil and energy have all been rocketing alongside supply chain snags, including shipping container costs, which can delay arrival from far-flung mills and factories. There’s a lot of uncertainty in the world and now’s the time for those who use linen to once again scrutinise their processes and iron out any wrinkles in the system. That’s been a polite and regular message to the likes of hotels and restaurants served by independent laundry company CLEAN throughout the ups and downs of the pandemic and the staycation boom.

But now it’s even more urgent as those supply chain issues increase alongside higher seasonal usage. “We’ve heard of hotels lending stock to other hotels running short of linen,” says Ted Walker of CLEAN. “Regardless of which laundry you use, this is not good practice as once it leaves the site the chances of it returning to the original supplier are greatly reduced.”

It’s at times like this that the use of RFID really demonstrates its value, with both laundries and end users able to efficiently manage supplies and calculate need.

The aim is to keep linen flowing as smoothly as possible, avoiding the laundry equivalent of the unnecessary petrol pump queues. No hoarding is another message – and that’s not always deliberate. Cupboards full of unused linen built up over time by businesses simply ordering the same amount each week even if their needs have reduced restrict the amount of linen in circulation. Regular checking of the delivery schedule to ensure it’s in line with expected occupancy levels and keeping top-ups to agreed stock levels all helps things to run smoothly. And as Walker points out, making sure linen held on site is regularly circulated and used in order ensures that one batch of linen is not going round in circles to the laundry and back until worn out, while some languishes unused at the bottom of the cupboard.

This is about sustainability and the lifetime of linen, not just good practice at a time of uncertainty. Clean linen takes up less space than dirty linen, but it needs to ‘breathe’ rather than be flattened over months by a weighty pile up on top, with harder to remove creases becoming a feature.

Living, breathing cotton: our linen starts life in a field and the route to it ending up on a bed or in a bathroom is complicated and expensive

CLEAN have been working with suppliers such as Vision to ensure stock levels of high-quality linen are maintained, whether that’s use of freeports or even airfreighting in shipments. At the same time there’s an understandable approach to quotes for services given to potential clients. They must accept that the price offered relates to a deal at that time. Come back in three months and it may well have to be recalculated. Like everyone else, our laundries are having to live and work with a ‘New Normal’ which isn’t normal at all.

The future life of linen

Don’t miss Stephen Broadhurst of Star Linen’s session at Hospitality Expo at Ascot on 24 and 25 April. You can hear more about the benefits of the circular economy, his determination that Star Linen products do not end up in landfill, and admiration for the TFR Group in Blackburn, now recycling 7,000 mattresses a week. He suspects there will be an increasing demand for more UK-manufactured items like pillows and duvets, even though the raw materials will still have to be brought here for production. Environmental issues will be a key driver in all this, which suits Broadhurst down to the ground as he’s a champion of finding new uses for items in our industry which have gone past their original lifespan but can be repurposed through innovative recycling schemes.

The old ones are the best

While terms such as recycling, sustainability and the circular economy are now common currency, today’s environmental issues follow centuries’ old advice. The truth is that prior to the ‘throwaway society’ many people were very careful to make good use of their belongings. The most well-known adage for all this is ‘waste not, want not’ and first versions of this were recorded in 1772 according to The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer and then began to appear in literature throughout the 18th century. But what is thought to be an old Scottish saying is ‘wilful waste makes woeful want’ and our favourite version dates back to 1576 as “For want is nexte to waste, and shame doeth synne ensue.”

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