Sustainability: In it for the long term

Jan Raycroft has been talking to industry businesses about the sustainability initiatives they’ve introduced and the impact its had on their business

Beware of the vampires – now there’s a way to start a report on how every business, from the smallest to multinationals, can avoid being drained – and contribute to the sustainability drive while saving money.

The modern day ‘Draculas’ hide in the background of your operation, appearing to be simply doing their jobs while sucking on your energy, secretly adding to power bills, often aided by unsuspecting and well-meaning humans providing their ‘food’.

Jan Raycroft reports

Even the smallest eco-friendly operation can show its sustainability credentials with the Fill Refill displays

Christeyns UK will be installing solar panels at their Bradford facility following this successful installation at their Professional Hygiene plant in Whalley Bridge

It’s something Christeyns, the suppliers of premium chemicals and hygiene solutions for our textile care and cleaning sector, discovered during an ongoing project to maximise their own sustainability. Operations director Justin Kerslake explains: “We signed up for solar panels at our Bradford plant, which will be online from April 2024. “This is after a successful installation at our sister plant Christeyns Professional Hygiene near Glossop.

An unexpected benefit and lesson learned came through data management on energy use we got with the solar system. It helped identify vampire device energy consumption at weekends.” Vampire device energy usage clocks up when equipment is left on ‘stand-by’ or in ‘sleep mode’ during business downtime or when not in use at home.

It’s thought to be responsible for as much as five per cent of global electricity consumption. Most people are now aware of how much it’s adding to their household bills but it’s not necessarily the first thing you think about at work when not personally paying the bills. Kerslake advises that it can take a long time to get the feed in tariff and process sorted with the DNO (Distribution Network Operator) – so apply on day one or, even better, as soon as you commit to the project.

He’s also a fan of small changes which can accumulate into a big gain, not just cost-wise but for the environment. An example is that all Christeyns staff have been issued with refillable bottles. That last point is a great example of how even the smallest change can make a difference, and in this feature we’ll be looking at a host of bright ideas.

Phillip Kalli, founder of Fill Refill, continues to expand his mission to convert more of our industry and the general public to a far more ethical future under the ‘Single Use is Over’ banner. Fill Refill makes responsible, returnable and refillable laundry, household cleaning, hand, body and hair care products available in returnable bulk and refillable glass bottles. Everything is made at their Northamptonshire factory where the chemists strive to combine biodegradable ingredients to create simple and effective eco-responsible products with no dyes or harsh chemicals.

All Fill Refill products are registered with The Vegan Trademark and Cruelty Free approved by The Leaping Bunny. They’re a certified B Corporation and members of 1% For The Planet, donating one per cent of turnover to environmental causes. Kalli says: “You can now find us in all kinds of conscious stores, refill stations, zero waste stores and farm shops around the UK. “A selection of Fill refills is available at a growing number of forward-thinking professional textile care providers on the high street; folks like Zen at Home in Harringay, London.

Zen is a small independent on a mission to make sustainable clothing care easier than ever before and looking for ways to better serve the needs of their community. They created a new retail area that includes Fill Refill laundry and household cleaning products.” Customers can fill a Fill Refill bottle, jar or reusable container at the store on the high street. Fill Refill will deliver bulk returnable drums to any store across the UK. The empties are taken back for washing and refill. Every 200 litres handled this way removes the equivalent of 400 500ml plastic bottles from circulation.

Kalli’s enterprise always delivers goods to stores plastic-free and uses reclaimed pallets, repurposed and reusable cardboard pallet boxes, reusable nets, pallet straps or paper banding. They take back cardboard boxes and boards for reuse. If they can’t be reused, the cardboard is shredded onsite for use as infill packaging. “It really doesn’t take much for a textile care professional to set up a refill area in store,” he says. “Fill Refill supply everything you’d need, including product information, simple reusable point of sale, taps, bottles, posters and advice on best sellers.

There’s no minimum order and you can start refilling with just a single product and grow as the idea gets more popular.” “Refill stores are good, soulful, independent places run by cool folks who believe there’s a better way to buy and supply goods. We’re meeting more and more ‘retail rebels’ and serial fillers in a war against waste in neighbourhoods across the land. They’re not so interested in ultra-convenient single use or impersonal transactions. Often, they’re much more than a store… they bring colour, creativity and community back to high streets and side streets.” Paul Hamilton, technical director at Regenex, has seen the focus on waste management within the hospitality industry move from recycling where possible through reselling of commodities such as waste textiles to recycling for a modest fee to re-use – rather than recycling only – becoming an increasingly popular choice. He says: “As the UK continues on the race to net zero, organisations large and small are facing increasing pressure to acknowledge that they are responsibly disposing of items they can longer make use of. However, according to the well-established and government-backed Hierarchy of Waste, reusing an item is considered to be the preferred choice over using the earth’s finite resources to manufacture something new.

“The same can also be applied to hotels and small accommodation lets in particular — maximising the lifecycle of commercial linen can not only help to reduce expenses for business owners, but it can assist in cutting carbon emissions and lessening the amount of textile waste going to landfill in the long run, too. Formed in 2013, UK-based short-stay accommodation provider, USnooz. com was keen to establish a more circular process for its bedding, towels and tableware, and more importantly, cut long-term costs. The fast-growing network, founded by Halifax entrepreneur Glenn Ackroyd, delivered 73kg of guest bedding, towels, and tableware to Regenex from properties all over the UK for an initial processing trial. Despite heavy staining with the likes of fake tan, make-up and food, a total of 65kg was effectively cleaned and returned to stock — representing an impressive success rate of 89 per cent on material which would otherwise have been ragged or sent to landfill.

The solution has seen Regenex save uSnooz.com up to 83.6 per cent on the cost of replacement linens via its patented multi-bath process that helps to gently open fibres and lift stains. Now a retained customer, Regenex now returns four-fifths of uSnooz.com’s previously unsalvageable, soiled linen — extending its lifecycle even further, while the remainder is either sold as rag or recycled.

Glenn Ackroyd of uSnooz.com says: “For us, it’s a double win. Some 81 per cent of our previously soiled linen is now returned to us, and the remainder is recycled. Quite frankly, I’m baffled why anybody in our industry isn’t already using Regenex.” At Star Linen UK sustainability is at the core of all they do, having embarked on becoming a B Corp accredited business. The first stop on this journey was to offset carbon emissions and working with Carbon Neutral Britain, this was achieved early this year. A main objective was to work with customers to provide an end-of-life solution for their bedding as well as introducing a sustainable range of bedding products.

Managing director Stephen Broadhurst recalls: “When Marston’s decided to re-tender its bed linen contract, a key consideration was the sustainability credentials of the supplier. Star Linen UK was chosen as we were able to demonstrate we had a working relationship with suppliers to stop certain items ending up in landfill, in particular duvets and pillow fillings. “This was extremely beneficial to Marston’s as part of the tender was to replace old product with new more eco-friendly products and Star Linen’s range of Ashton products ticked that box, too. Our Ashton pillows and duvet fillings are made from recycled plastic bottles which ordinarily would have ended up in landfill or in our oceans and seas.”

Working with Marston’s, Star Linen UK looked at a number of hotels and took away over 5,500kgs of old pillows and duvets, equivalent to the weight of four family cars! Rather than end up in landfill they were diverted to TFR Group to recycle and re-purpose duvets and pillows. The polyester filling is removed from the pillows and duvets and turned into pads that are used in mattresses, kevlar vests or made into new polyester wadding. The covers were then shredded and combined with other fibres for use in soundproofing boards for the automotive industry. Broadhurst continues: “We then replaced 3,132 duvets and 8,587 pillows with our Ashton range. By using the eco-friendly pillows and duvets, we calculated that this prevented over a quarter of a million plastic bottles from ending up in landfill or our oceans. A fantastic result for Marstons and Star Linen, and a better result for the environment.”

Since the introduction of the Ashton duvet and pillow range in 2022 it has resulted in the repurposing of 1.3 million plastic bottles into pillow and duvet filling rather than landfill.

Regenex have helped uSnooz short-stay accommodation provider dramatically reduce their waste linen

Deyan Dimitrov, founder of Laundryheap

MAG Laundry Equipment’s greener vehicles serve across the UK

Matt Connelly, founder of ihateironing

Another of the entrepreneurs and innovators at the forefront of the sustainability drive is Deyan Dimitrov, founder of Laundryheap. He says: “We’re constantly looking for ways we can operate more sustainably as a business, whilst still providing the quality service and convenience our customers love. “As an on-demand delivery service, fleet vehicle optimisation has always been a core element of our sustainability strategy. Early on we calculated that by replacing one of our delivery vans with two cargo bikes we could reduce our CO2 emissions by 34 tonnes per annum. That’s the equivalent of a small petrol car running 5,500 miles.

“So in April 2021, we acquired our first set of Electric Assisted Vehicles (EAVs) and in that year alone reduced our carbon emissions by 2.39 CO2 tonnes. Ever since, we have been on a mission to find other ways to optimise our fleet and make it even more environmentally friendly.” Most recently, they announced a partnership with Delivery Mates, an eco-friendly logistics provider.

Now, Delivery Mates takes care of Laundryheap’s EAV fleet maintenance, servicing and repairs, fleet management, telematics storage and insurance.Their team’s extensive experience in managing electric cargo bikes is already proving invaluable. “We know they care about the planet just as much as we do and we have already learned so much from their approach to sustainable delivery,” says Dimitrov. With the support of Delivery Mates, repair times for the cargo bikes have shrunk from two weeks to just 24 hours.

Looking ahead, this partnership will also help us grow our market share and reduce our costs overall – proof that going greener can have financial benefits. Dimitrov advises: “When it comes to developing your sustainability strategy, it can be difficult to know where to start. That’s why it can be useful to bring trusted partners on board, to leverage their expertise and optimise specific areas of your business for sustainability. “Strong partnerships have enabled us to make our business greener, without sacrificing the quality of our core service.

We’ve built a strong foundation for future sustainable innovation in the months and years to come.” Matt Connelly, CEO and founder of ihateironing, acknowledges the significant environmental challenges faced by the laundry and drycleaning industry as they seek more sustainable practices. “Recognising the detrimental impact of single-use plastic packaging, especially in the on-demand sector, we were committed to mitigating our environmental footprint with the support of our network of over 70 drycleaning partners,” he says. “At the same time, we’re aware of the fact that many small businesses can’t afford to shoulder the costs of sustainable packaging. We saw the chance for a two-fold solution that is economical on the drycleaner, as well as friendlier for the environment.” In 2020 they launched a reusable covers initiative to address the issue of plastic packaging in a cost-efficient manner for both cleaners and customers.

Now customers can place a deposit for each cover used, fostering a circular economy as the deposit is refunded upon return. With each cover capable of holding up to five items on hangers, reliance on single-use plastic has been eliminated. Connelly says: “The driving reason behind a hesitation to take on more sustainable packaging usually lies in it not being financially viable for more small-scale drycleaners, who would be losing out on production costs. Implementing a reusable cover ‘renting strategy’ offers several cost advantages for drycleaners.” “By charging customers a nominal fee for each reusable cover and refunding this amount upon the return of the cover, drycleaners can create a sustainable and cost-effective system.

Reusable covers, designed to withstand multiple uses, eliminate the need for constant replacement, unlike single-use plastic alternatives, making them more financially viable in the long-run.” Since the start of 2023, they’ve reduced 165,000 single-use plastic bags and continue to come up with new strategies to incentivise customers to opt for the scheme, such as shouldering the initial cost of renting the covers out for certain operational areas. Connelly concludes: “The positive reception and tangible results from this initiative have strengthened our resolve to invest in additional sustainable solutions. Our future plans include introducing more electric vans to our delivery fleet and trialling e-bikes in select areas, aiming to further reduce our carbon footprint.”

As a leading provider of commercial laundry solutions, MAG Laundry Equipment is dedicated to achieving carbon neutrality by the year 2040, surpassing the UK government’s target by 10 years. In an era where businesses worldwide are addressing climate change and sustainability, the Halifax-based supplier of commercial laundry machines, has undergone a complete transformation of its operations to embrace sustainability and the environment. With a steadfast focus on responsible energy and water consumption, MAG has revolutionised their business model, dedicating an impressive £5m to research and development across their product lines.

They now procure 100 per cent of electricity from renewable energy sources, effectively eradicating their dependence on fossil fuels. Operations manager Daniel Holland says: “By spearheading eco-friendly transportation, we are catalysing positive change within the industry. MAG’s nationwide fleet of service vehicles across the UK comprises of both electric and hybrid models, with a plan to complete the transition to electric vehicles by the end of the year.”

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