Textiles top disposables for sustainability says industry report

9 March 2021

A groundbreaking and important new report by an impressive array of international textile care industry representatives succinctly puts the case for textiles over disposables. In effect, textiles are a far more sustainable option for the planet and have many other benefits over their disposable/single use counterparts.

The report, named "Why textiles win in the long run", is the result of a close cooperation between ETSA, the Belgian Asscociation for Textile Care (FBT), the Textile Service Association (TSA, UK), TRSA USA and the Swedish Textile Service Association. The report examines published literature on hygienic and sustainability performance of reusable textile-based table linens and the single-use disposable table covering used in the service industry (largely hotels and restaurants). Most of the studies taken into account by the authors illustrate strong arguments for the reusable textile option.

The study concludes that the textile table linen is much more sustainable compared to disposable table coverings. While maintaining these environmental credentials, the reusable textile table linens do not seem to compromise on hygienic performance when compared to disposable table linens. Furthermore, the study highlights that textile based products do not increase the spread of Covid-19.

The findings go on to demonstrate that the use of energy and water in the washing of textile linens for re-use is only half of the climate impact created by disposables when it comes to the manufacturing process and waste management after every single use. Lastly, as opposed to the rather linear business model of disposables, the circular business model applied when textile table linens pass through a large number of washing cycles, creates many local jobs. The findings show that each job created in the textile service industry creates 25% more indirect and induced jobs. This comparative investigation which focused on analyzing the hygienic standards, environmental performance and economic contribution (i.e. jobs created and protected) are within the scope of three main pillars to sustainability.

Key points

When compared to plastic, paper, stainless steel, glass, vinyl, cotton fabric from renewable textiles was the material with the lowest half-life, implying that the COVID-19 virus dies faster on this type of surface compared to paper surfaces.

Choosing  to supply a business or residence with textile table linens helps generate jobs locally through textile service companies. Supporting this sector is therefore vital in supporting local jobs in municipalities through Europe and North America. 

the business model of the professional textile service is inherently circular, because it minimises waste, keeps products and materials in use for as long as possible and finds new uses for textiles once they can no longer be used for their first purpose through re-use, upcycling or recycling.

The textile service industry employs a diverse array of people from both highly educated engineers within the area of industrial processes and logistics, as well as many thousands of workers with lower levels of formal education.

While the maintenance and environmental footprint of textile linens is lower than disposables, the hygiene performance of textile table linen is equal to disposable table linen. Making textile linens just as hygiencally effective while being more environmentally conscious.

European and the US textile service sectors together support almost 330,000 jobs in total. These jobs represent pillars to local communites and provide essential textile services to  communities in both Europe and North America.

Innovative ways of recycling of textile fibres, such as the use of alternative fibres in textile-production and the increased use of non-fossil energy in the washing process, are continuously decreasing the environmental impact from textiles.


This study highlights and bring to our attention the obvious - using something several dozens of times is better than using something once and thrown away. In the larger scale of things, this is much more logical and the right choice for our hospitality businesses, the planet and for viable local job creation.

• Find out more at www.textile-services.eu

Privacy Policy
We have updated our privacy policy. In the latest update it explains what cookies are and how we use them on our site. To learn more about cookies and their benefits, please view our privacy policy. Please be aware that parts of this site will not function correctly if you disable cookies. By continuing to use this site, you consent to our use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy unless you have disabled them.