Investing in Green: Making Laundry Operations More Sustainable
On this World Tourism Day 2023, the theme "Tourism and Green Investments" invites us to reflect on our environmental footprint in every aspect of the tourism industry. A key area often overlooked in this context is laundry operations, which are integral to hotels, restaurants, and other tourism-related establishments. As we strive for a greener future, it's time to analyze and improve the sustainability of these operations.
The Impact of Laundry Operations on the Environment
Laundry operations, especially in the hospitality industry, consume large amounts of water, energy, and chemicals. The United Nations World Water Assessment Program estimates that on average, a single hotel room can consume 100 to 200 liters of water per day only for laundry. Furthermore, the energy used to heat the water and operate the machines, as well as the chemicals used in detergents, can have a significant environmental impact.
Green Investments in Laundry Operations
Investing in sustainable laundry practices can not only reduce environmental impact but also lead to significant cost savings. Let's explore some ways to make laundry operations more sustainable.
A good place to start is to check that tasks are completed with the right processes, products, and equipment. This will help ensure optimum efficiency and reduce the need for repeat washing which avoids additional water heating and electrical equipment running costs let alone savings in time and product consumption.
Another simple task is to maintain equipment correctly so that it is reliable and energy efficient. It is important to follow manufacturers’ guidelines for daily inspections and arrange servicing at the correct intervals. Daily tasks might include, for example, checking and cleaning a machine’s pumps and filters to remove blockages that cause inefficiency.
Washing machines used in hard water areas can be prone to lime-scale. This can accumulate and restrict the passage of water and impact on the equipment’s reliability and limit the efficiency of the heating element. More energy will be required to heat the same amount of water. In fact, each millimeter of scale inside the heating element will add around eight to ten per cent on energy costs for a typical commercial machine. Lime scale can also interfere with internal sensors that manage the temperature and the flow of water and cleaning products, leading to further inefficiencies and wastage. Regular descaling with a specialist product or switching to formulations that prevent lime-scale will help prevent this issue.
Another simple way to reduce energy costs is to switch to products that are effective at lower temperatures. Washing at 40°C significantly reduces energy costs by up to a third compared to washing at 60°C or above. However, healthcare guidance does stipulate that thermal disinfection is the preferred choice for infected linen. Alternative low temperature formulations are available for laundry and will deliver payback from day one. Many can be swapped into existing processes without significant retraining or other changes.
Thus far these considerations have highlighted the energy-saving benefits of using the correct equipment, products, and processes. But optimized processes at lower temperatures can also save another valuable resource: water. The first saving is made by avoiding the need to wash items a second time.
The second saving is by reducing the number of required rinses – the standard on many commercial machines is three rinse cycles. If we consider on average for each kilo of linen three to four liters of water is required to remove residual soiling and chemicals from the fabric, removing a single rinse will save 33 percent of the water being used and is achievable using specific product neutralizers.
Time savings are also achieved by the removal of one or two rinse cycles. Product formulations are another sustainability consideration. Traditional laundry products have been developed over decades to deliver highly effective, economical, and consistent results. But laundry operators are increasingly seeking novel formulations with additional sustainability benefits. This includes, for example, using ingredients from renewable resources.
Switching to ultra concentrates from traditional liquid formulations can reduce the volume needed to support a laundry. This leads to smaller pack sizes or fewer deliveries which reduces the number of transport movements and lower CO2 emissions as well as minimizing storage and handling burdens across the supply chain, all good sustainability benefits.
Modern packaging also uses fewer raw materials such as plastics and cardboard. Sustainability is further enhanced when these materials are made wholly or partially from recycled sources. Packaging is also designed to be easier to sort and recycle after use. All of this helps to promote a circular lifecycle for packaging which contributes to the sustainability of laundry products.
Larger businesses running one or more commercial machines and dealing with higher volumes of laundry can often achieve significant sustainability benefits by tapping into the capabilities of the latest smart technologies and applications. These systems work in conjunction with washing machines and dosing equipment to help on-premises laundry operators reduce costs, minimize rewashes, and enhance results by providing an advanced set of remote real-time management and diagnostic tools over the Internet. Operators can respond proactively to deal with issues before they impact on operations and modify settings to optimize water and energy consumption and the quality of results.
Many of the changes outlined above can be implemented quickly and easily with little or no additional upfront investment. When more significant change is identified it becomes much easier to justify an investment when energy prices rise because savings offset the costs much more quickly. Reputable suppliers can advise on the most energy-efficient combination of their products for specific applications. They will support their claims with proper documentation and may have tools and calculators to help assess savings.