Reuse and prosper21 August 2023
Textile care trade associations in the UK, Europe and USA are determined to convince their respective governments that reusable healthcare (and other) workwear and PPE is hygienically safe and could save millions of £, € and $
It is good news for health care linen rental businesses in the USA as the TRSA announces it has secured the signatures of US Representatives Greg Landsman (D-OH-01) and Michael Carey (R-OH-15) as the chief co-signers to a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. The letter requests Secretary Becerra to “examine the feasibility and potential benefits of the increased use of reusable healthcare textiles (HCTs) in hospitals and other medical facilities to protect healthcare workers, address the rising environmental impact of disposables, prepare for future pandemics and potentially provide cost savings”.
This letter is a major step in developing federal policy to require healthcare facilities to maintain an operating stock of reusable healthcare textiles. “This is a huge win for the linen, uniform and facility services industry,” said Kevin Schwalb TRSA’s vice president of Government relations. “Secretary Becerra will be compelled to respond to a congressional Inquiry, which usually leads to a form of federal policy being either legislation or regulation.”
This letter is the culmination of groundwork laid during TRSA’s Legislative Conference in March whereby TRSA members visited congressional offices to request legislators to sign on to the letter. While securing chief co-signers is a major step, TRSA members now need to contact their respective legislators to get them to add their name to the letter. The more names on the letter, the more impact the letter will have at the Department of Health and Human Services, said the Association.
The letter cites the predominance of safe reusable stock in Canada and the UK healthcare sectors: “In the United States, more than 90% of health care PPE and operating room textiles are single use, even though ample supplies of reusable equivalents are available. By comparison, other countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom maintain inventories of 80% reusable health care textiles.3 Studies have found that reusable textiles are every bit as safe—if not safer than—their disposable substitutes.4”
Along with legislation introduced in New York requiring healthcare facilities to maintain a 50% operating stock of reusable textiles, this letter is another victory for TRSA members and reusable healthcare textiles.
Ricci also said it is campaigning hard get passed into federal law a requirement that enough reusable PPE is to be provided to the US healthcare sector, thence eliminating in future any scenario where supplies of disposable PPE ran out early on as happened during Covid.
While in the UK, Ricci subsequently heard that in New York both Democrats and Republicans have voted to put this in place. “After that we should see that happen in California and elsewhere.” Although he admitted they wouldn’t get to the hoped-for 50% of all states.
Back in April 2020 TRSA vice president of government relations and certification Schwalb and Ricci had jointly briefed Steve Pinkos, deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security advisor to the vice president, regarding the importance of establishing a balanced supply chain to mitigate shortages of healthcare PPE including use of hygienically clean reusable healthcare contact textiles (HCTs) such as isolation and surgical gowns, scrubs and other PPE.
“TRSA members supply, launder and maintain nearly 90% of the healthcare contact textiles (HCT) such as linens, scrubs, isolation and surgical gowns in North America,” said Ricci, “And are also now serving not only existing healthcare facilities, but the emergency facilities built to handle peak occupancies including convention centres in New York and New Orleans. We have been working to deliver hygienically clean and safe reusable HCTs due to the shortages of disposable alternatives.”
“We haven’t seen this level of shortages globally,” said Ricci, “As they typically use a better balance of both reusable and disposable products. In the US, the market is dominated by less sustainable disposable products with nearly 90%of HCTs being disposable; globally the balance is closer to 50/50 reusable to disposable.”
“Our industry’s capacity to process hygienically clean, reusable HCTs provides a more sustainable, secure supply chain that could withstand demand fluctuations of the healthcare community while providing the same protection offered by disposable alternatives,” said Ricci.
Meanwhile, in the UK, the TSA in 2021 signed a partnership with the Professional Clothing Industry Association Worldwide (PCIAW). The partnership aims to provide end-to-end support across the apparel manufacturers, distributors, and laundry industries. The professional clothing industry has witnessed an exponential growth in single-use personal protective equipment (PPE) throughout the pandemic. For example, isolation gowns designed for single use was shown not to be a cost-eff ective solution and is detrimental to the textile industry’s sustainability goals.
TSA’s Stevens said at the time: “TSA is proud to partner with PCIAW. We have been lobbying the UK Government for the past nine months to incorporate reusable isolation gowns into its offi cial PPE strategy. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) have fi nally recognised the idea of reusable gowns in the PPE Strategy released in October”.
Both the PCIAW and TSA agree upon reusable isolation gowns being the way forward and that the economic and environmental cases are both strong. The TSA advises that reusable isolation gowns can be laundered up to 75 times. The DHSC admits the cost diff erence between single-use and reusable is ‘modest’ but as the reusable isolation gowns last up to 74 more times longer because they can be cleaned and reused, the preferred choice should be clear.
While the TSA lobbies the UK Government to make the case for reusable isolation gowns, the products need to be manufactured to a high standard using the optimal materials and the correct stitching if the isolation gowns are going to withstand the expected 75 wash lifespan.
In Europe last year a report from Ambiente Italia and important follow-up data gathering undertaken by Assostima and Ambienete Italia - was presented at Ecomundo and heavily underscores the environmental advantages of reusable textiles. The news was analysed by Elena Lai at ETSA (the European Association for Textile Services) and reported on the Association’s news web page. In its role as European Climate Ambassador, declared by the European Commission in July 2021, ETSA has set the goal of supporting the circular economy and the development of these services, favouring a reduction in the consumption of resources and supporting consumer behavioural changes. This objective obviously includes promoting the use of reusable products. (See Elena Lai’s full report https://www. laundryandcleaningnews.com/features/ featureetsa-comment-on-ambienteitalia- report-on-benefi ts-of-reusablelinen- versus-disposables-9524187/)
Flame retardant fabric
Flamestat 250, a flame retardant fabric with antistatic properties developed by global manufacturer Carrington Textiles, is a product which main attribute is its lightweight features while maintaining the company’s usual high standard in protection and performance.
At a weight of 250gsm, and with a high cotton content in its composition, Flamestat 250 provides a soft handle for comfort to the wearer, while the polyester in it offers durability and strength.
R&D manager, Kirsty White, explains: “We are able to adapt quickly to market requirements, and as we have been seeing a growing trend for wearer comfort which has transitioned from workwear to fl ame retardant fabrics, we created Flamestat 250. We also wanted to develop a lighter weight quality to complement our Flamestat 290 without impacting product performance.”
Flamestat 250 is the latest addition to the Flamestat family, industrially launderable and guaranteed to last the lifetime of the garment due to its robust construction. With 75% cotton, 24% polyester and 1% antistatic, this fabric’s fl ame retardancy is to the standards EN ISO 11612, EN ISO 14116 index 3 and EN ISO 11611; while its antistatic properties are to the EN 1149-3-5 standard.
Available in a range of colours that include high visibility yellow, black and navy, just to name a few, Flamestat 250 also provides electric arc and chemical splash protection to the EN 61482-1-2 and EN 13034 standards respectively.
Upgrades at Jacksons
In the UK, Jacksons Workwear Rental is renovating for improved effi ciency and productivity, to increase safety and enhance its overall work environment. “Over the past few years, along with our successful rebrand which you can read about in our blog post here, we have decided to upgrade our production equipment and systems. With our continued modernisation of Jacksons we are ensuring that we provide the best possible service to our customers,” says managing director Steve Pearce. All factors were considered when coming to a decision on which equipment best suited Jacksons’ needs with several months spent drawing up plans to ensure minimal disturbance during the change process, as it’s crucial that service to Jacksons’ customers is not disrupted.
“The pandemic disrupted many companies, but we are proud to say we coped well and made sure we provided our customers with their workwear so they could work through it. We all know how important it is to have PPE. In 2021, amidst the pandemic, we utilised the time to revamp our production area. Our team discussed, strategised, and successfully executed the renovations which involved installing new fl ooring, new machinery, and an improved system,” says Pearce.
A unique identification number, barcodes, tracking of wearers and ultimately the right software ensure professional management of workwear in laundries. This is exactly what SoCom Informationssysteme proprietary software Tikos fulfi ls. With the help of the company’s software and associated app and web solutions, all workwear items can be professionally managed and accounted for. In addition, numerous evaluations can be generated, processes optimised and thus effi ciency increased.
It is important to ensure that all textiles are properly tracked, regardless of whether they are leased or owned or whether they are wearer-related or pool washed. A unique identifi cation number in the form of barcodes,QR codes or RFID chips and garment tracking helps to track the entire movement of each item inside as well as outside the business. With a unique ID number, each individual item can be uniquely identifi ed, allowing the entire textile management process to be monitored. An ID number makes it possible to capture the item with a scanner and thus track the product’s path through the laundry. Thus, the complete history of an item is available, from purchase through all stock movements to washing cycles, rework and repairs.