They’re the lowliest item on the festive table, hardly noticed among the crackers, Champagne, and three-bird roasts of festive banquets all over the UK. They are used to mop up spilt food, blow runny noses and even shine the odd muddy shoe but forward-thinking hoteliers and their laundries are looking after the humble napkin like never before this Christmas.
Increasingly, we are starting to realise that napkins – the support act to snowy white tablecloths – are precious and should be treated as such. Regenex has been talking about the need to look after, and get the most out of, all commercial linen in a free, downloadable white paper, Love Linen Longer. It has even created a character named Neville the Napkin to push its message home, see illustration.
And napkins are a case in point. Historically, they have been seen as cheap and throwaway, binned the minute they stain or fade – perhaps since they were first introduced by the Romans. In an experiment, one well-known laundry put 10,000 napkins into circulation and monitored the return. By the third rotation, every napkin had been either damaged, stolen, or marked beyond use.
However, the uniquely robust fabric of these small, serviceable squares means that if we look after them, they can go on, and on, and on. From a sustainability point of view, this is very wise – especially when it’s considered that they are often made at least partly from polyester, which takes many years to decompose once condemned to landfill.
The plastic content of a kilogram of 100% polyester napkins is equivalent to 43 bags for life. So those 10,000 lost napkins in the laundry experiment equated to over 30,000 bags for life thrown away – a sobering thought as we pop the corks of our yuletide fizz.
In these tough times of rising costs, failing to look after napkins is expensive, too. Good quality ones cost about 50p each to buy in bulk, adding up to £7 per kilogram. Constantly replacing them can seriously affect a laundry’s bottom line. So, a new era of cherishing every napkin is upon us.
Regenex offers stain removal and colour top-up services available for a fraction of the price of buying new, says the company.