Talking Point: Hotels’ laundry choices could help drive the circular economy

Waste in UK

Are you recycling everything you could be?

In this Talking Point blog Paul Servin, Xeros Technology Platform Leaders thinks how hoteliers’ choices can contribute to the circular economy.

June 5 is World Environment Day; a chance for all industries - including hotels - to reflect on the impact humans are having on the environment.

One of the most pressing environmental issues we face today is the global water crisis, as water scarcity affects more than 40% of the world’s population. But through considered choices and actions, hoteliers can reduce their water footprint and improve their eco credentials by boosting the circular economy.

Guests often wonder whether towel and linen programmes are actually just saving the hotel money, but the laundry industry is one of the biggest culprits for water waste as traditional washing machines often rely on potable water as the core ingredient for the washing process. When guests staying in warmer climes frequently use up to ten times more water daily than is usual for local people, it’s easy to see why any action hotels can take to mitigate a guest’s water footprint can have a big local environmental impact.

This is why the polymer beads in the Xeros system make a difference. By making polymer beads the active cleaning medium in the washing process, our machines can reduce the amount of water used per wash by up to 80%.

Hoteliers who want to maximise their water reductions need first to measure their water footprint. Last year the industry’s leading players collaborated through ITP to produce the first universal measurement and metric for water consumption. HWMI, the Hotel Water Measurement Initiative brings consistency to the way hotels measure and record their water consumption – and it includes laundry – producing a figure per guest stay or room.

But we wouldn’t be playing our part in a circular economy if the polymer beads themselves were not recyclable. Many hoteliers ask whether the environmental benefits gained from water preservation are negated by the polymer beads ending up in the trash. It is a valid question but our scientists have carefully designed these beads so they are long lasting and can indeed be recycled.

The beads are researched and tested in our laboratory near Sheffield so the size, shape and density delivers the best possible performance. Once they pass all lab tests, a Xeros Sbeadycare service representative inserts the beads into a special storage tray in the washer system where they stay until they are removed for recycling.

The beads can be used for many hundreds of washes, but once they are ready for replacing, the representative replaces them with new ones and takes the old ones away for recycling.

The used polymer beads are sold to recycle stations which means we’re unable to control what is made out of the recycled material. However, recycled nylon can for example be used to make flower pots. In terms of the machines themselves, as with every other washing machine, the metal, rubber and plastic parts can all be recycled.

The plastic containers for the detergents used in the system are also collected from customer sites and sent back to our suppliers to be re-used again. This means we recycle approximately 25 kg of HDPE (high density polyethylene) plastic per 1,000 washes.

But there’s more hoteliers can do to contribute to the circular economy. This is the process whereby the products we use are deliberately purchased with a view to their ability to be re-used or recycled. It’s essential because globally we use way more of our resources annually than the world itself can sustain through regeneration. Earth Overshoot Day moves each year but in 2016 August 8th marked the day when we’d already used more than was being put back.

Simple purchasing choices can help extend this day to much later in the year, based on whether the products can be re-used or recycled. Even old linens can be re-used as cleaning cloths or donated to charities which recycle fabric or can make use of them – for example kennels.

In our laundry system the polymer beads deliver such a gentle wash, less linens end up on the rag pile. A recent test by the independent laundry industry experts LTC compared conventional laundry processes with our system. Comparing the linen recovery rate (the percentage of stained linen that can be washed and put back into stock), the rate was 35.1% for Xeros versus 22.6% for conventional washers.

Owner of Shropshire-based Telford Laundry, Paul Woodford’s 10,000 sq ft plant processes around 35 tonnes of linen and work wear every week for customers in the UK’s West Midlands and Welsh coastal towns.

Paul said, “The Xeros system shows startlingly brighter and better recovery performance when processing already re-washed linens and most other textiles. We save between 55.29% and up to 76.81% by the recovery of what were previously scrap linens and this is a major, measurable and profitable activity for us and justifies our confidence in the investment we made.”

Paul also confirmed that the system is helping him reduce the amount of energy his plant uses whilst achieving optimum cleaning results. He commented, “The results will show reduced power requirements as we run a low temperature wash cycle even on re-wash.”

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