Single use plastic is no use4 November 2019
The Sustainability in Textile Care Committee is an industry-wide body of expert volunteers that is committed to help operators and suppliers find greener ways of doing business
A conversation at the Textile Services Association conference two years ago between Sarah Lancaster, owner of Total Laundry, Ruth Mitchell logistics consultant and LCN editor Kathy Bowry was the inspiration for an LCN Round Table on single use plastics. They had heard a presentation citing some really excellent instances of recycling by suppliers in other industries, prompting us to ask: “What can this industry do to tackle its problem of single use plastics and their disposal?”
Since that initial conversation, LCN and a number of operators, suppliers, trade associations and consultants have joined together to create a committee designed to help textile care operations find more sustainable options.
The Sustainability in Textile Care Committee (STCC), aims to promote a less wasteful and greener approach throughout the industry.
We all want to save the planet and adopt sustainable practices but we cannot do everything at once. What we can do, however, is to make a difference where we have control. Our first campaign aims to stem the flood of single use plastics polluting our oceans – and environment generally.
Commercial textile care operations from the largest linen rental operation to the single retail drycleaner/wetcleaner outlet can do a lot to peg the problem of profligate use of single use plastics.
We aren’t here to preach but to help businesses find solutions, share knowledge and pull together in the fight against single use plastics (see STCC Knowledge Network below).
Especially problematic single use plastic items are drums under 50 litres and plastic wrap with is used in copious amounts in both industrial laundries and drycleaners. Years of custom and practice by both operators and their customers has made it seem almost impossible to do without. However, attitudes are changing and hotels are increasingly requesting their linen rental operators not to wrap bales in polywrap. With dry- and wetcleaning, though, there is still the habit of providing polywrap coverings to ‘finish’ as part of the service. An option is to provide customers with reusable bags or source them in paper or a plant-based biodegradable plastic wrap or cover. Unfortunately, research by the committee found that some wraps that claim biodegradeability don’t actually achieve ‘meltdown’for five years or more.
At Ken Cupitt’s suggestion we decided that wrapping that biodegrades in 12 months or less are probably the ones to be looking at.
Biodegradeable wrap of this type, however, should not be left on clothes when transported home as the breakdown of the material could begin when garments are hanging in a wardrobe or in storage and have detrimental effects on the fabric.
The problem of disposing of chemicals drums seems to be hitting smaller laundries and drycleaners hard. At the first meeting of the committee (reported in LCN, August 2018), Ken Cupitt warned: “If the Government gets involved with taxes and rules it will be in an effort to make money not to solve the problem. Our best practical first stage help is to identify regional businesses who will accept waste containers for recycling and pass this on to every laundry and drycleaning business in the country.” The panel also believes that meaningful dialogue with waste disposal companies must be instigated.The panel also expressed concern that if the textile care industry doesn’t get on top of this itself, the Government will almost certainly get involved and impose taxes/rules so it is in the industry’s own interests as well as those of the planet to get this sorted.
Ready to launch
Now the committee is ready to launch its first campaign to help operators from all sectors and disciplines reduce dependence on single use plastics.
SUPPLIERS - Why can’t they collect and re-use containers?
Because smaller drums are often delivered by courier, it is not cost effective to send a vehicle to collect from individual premises. Some come from overseas and those suppliers are definitely not interested in retrieval missions. Smaller operators (mostly) have no room to store empties so they end up going in the bin (like household waste). Chemicals suppliers delivering to large premises will take back big drums over 20 litres and often deliverin bulk tankers so chemicals can be pumped into the operators’ tanks, so not such a big problem in this sector.
However, as Sarah Lancaster pointed out, not all laundries are large operations. “Lots of laundries are small independent concerns or OPL using 20 litre, even 5 litre bottles, so what do we do with these?” Small operations may have their supplies delivered by a courier along with other varied deliveries in the area so would be needing to dispose of the plastics as and when they are used. “UK manufacturers might be encouraged to take returns but some chemicals come from overseas…perhaps a distributor network might work.”
STCC Knowledge Network
We are launching the STCC Knowledge Network which will go live very shortly so do keep an eye on www.laundryandcleaningnews.com where it will be announced, and on Twitter and and other social media. Readers will be able to sign up to the campaign and download the STCC charter from the soon to be launched online STCC Knowledge Network. Simply sign the Charter and display on your premises, Many businesses have told us that customers have signalled their wish to do their bit and expect their launderers and drycleaners to help them do it. underlining their commitment to stemming the flood of single use plastic.
Also available for downloading from the STCC Knowledge Network will be the STCC logo which can be used on emails and other stationery. It all helps to get the messge across that the textile care industry – including your business – takes environmental issues seriously and is acting accordingly.
There will also be a online forum where textile care professionals can post information and dscuss with their peers the steps that can be taken to reduce the use of single use plastic. Join up with the STCC and help to turn back the tide of single use plastic in the industry.
Mathilde Blanc, BLANC Atelier - CFO
Kathy Bowry, LCN – editor
Mick Christian, Electrolux training and demonstration manager
Ken Cupitt, Guild of Cleaners & Launderers – council chair
Conor Diggin, LCN - events
Fatima Eskandarypur, Textiles for Life – CEO
Kyle Grant, Oxwash – founder
Martin Jenkins, UKFT – drycleaning specialist
Phillip Kalli, Ideal Manufacturing – managing director
Sarah Lancaster, Total Laundry – managing director
Justin Mann, Laundrapp – national partners manager
Chris Milton, LCN – publishing director
Colin Paterson, Total Fabric Solutions – managing director
Colin Oakley, Laundry Efficiency – managing director
Adrian Redgate, National Drycleaners – managing director
Shyju Skariah, Textile Services Association (TSA) – technical services manager
Paul Woodhead, Telford Laundry – managing director