In our last issue we featured a story about the launch of a new cleaning operation that is designed to help the laundry industry love their linen for longer. Keen to know more, Fiona Henry, editor of Laundry & Cleaning Today, reached out to David Midgley, managing director of Regenex, the Bradford-based linen recovery firm behind the process, to hear all about their journey of innovation.
How did the idea come about?
We first got involved in the industrial laundry sector when we were invited to undertake some consultancy work, through a customer of our textile business who had changed jobs to become a textile specialist at Berendsen.
We learned about the persistent problems of residual staining and greying, initially on hospitality linen, and we knew we had the expertise and experience to make a difference in this area. We put together our textile processing knowhow, dating back more than 100 years, with fresh insight from chemical and educational partners, to develop a new technique to unlock stains previously considered impossible.
This started out as a laboratory project, then grew into a pilot, before becoming a fully-commercial operation. Our process can be adapted to suit all laundry sectors including hospitality, healthcare and workwear. Each suffer from similar issues which can be addressed through related but specifically tailored systems.
We strongly believe that current, growing environmental awareness will put more and more pressure on textile processors and users to maximise the life and use of precious resources – and minimise the environmental impact of manufacturing new linens, through placing fewer new orders for replacement stock. Any system that can lengthen the life of linens can only be positive for the green credentials of laundries.
Tell us more about the pilot project? How did you get it started and what did you learn along the way?
We knew we had a great service to offer but the road was bumpy in places. For example, the seasonality in the hospitality sector meant that we were very busy between April and Christmas, but that activity died down in the off-season. We also had issues when there were changes in management at our key customers, meaning relationships needed to be rebuilt – which is a challenge in any industry. Slowly, more and more decision makers in the laundry sectors are starting to see the dual wins in cost savings and environmental benefit offered by the Regenex system – and are turning to us accordingly. Customers can see the difference in linens that we’ve treated but they are also reassured by tests we carried out with scientists at Leeds University, and an independent commercial laboratory, which show our processes – that are rigorous yet gentle – do not age or weaken fabrics. We also have spectrophotometer equipment to accurately measure degrees of whiteness restored to items.
Can you explain the Regenex process?
By understanding the fibres and the type of stain – be that rust, concrete marks, fake tan, oil or food – we are able to use our expertise and experience. The Regenex process is a multi-stage chemically engineered system involving specially-developed textile processing techniques, in combination with some regular industrial laundry procedures, to deliver the desired results. We are not a laundry and only focus on the stain removal process. We wash and dry the items before inspection, but do not fold or iron items. As mentioned, the process is designed to maintain the fibre’s strength and structural integrity at every stage, while providing maximum stain removal and whiteness. Each of our processed pieces is visually inspected to the highest standard, and our rejection rate on returned linen is far lower than normal laundries. By using the Regenex process, our customers can reduce stock holding, by reducing the volume of linen in the laundry system that is unfit for purpose. Sending these items to Regenex streamlines their operations and makes sure items undergoing everyday processing meets requirements.
You’re now ready to launch this wider – what types of businesses are you looking to work with? And what would they need to do to test out your process?
We are looking to work with any industrial laundry, hotel group or organisation that wants to reduce its spend by extending the life of its textiles as well as making a commitment to the environment. This would also give them a competitive advantage over those which do not embrace this opportunity – an important factor in this price-sensitive and quality-sensitive market. All potential customers need to do is contact us through, save a reasonable amount of discoloured – but not ripped or torn – linen currently destined for the ragman, and we will do the rest. As well as rendering a considerable proportion of white linen destined for ragging reusable, our textile expertise has allowed us to extend our service to other services such as the dyeing of continuous roller towels, the topping-up of faded coloured table linen or the re-dyeing of coloured spa towels.
Bradford-headquartered linen recovery specialists Regenex began as nothing more than an idea back in late 2016, when founders David Midgley, Paul Hamilton and Matthew Whitehead sought to challenge the status quo – and carbon footprint – in the hospitality laundry sector. Their new commercial cleaning operation – designed to close the loop on linen ‘waste’ from the hotel and hospitality sector – has been launched following a successful two-year pilot. The UK laundry market reportedly processes almost 750,000 tonnes of hotel linen and towels – plus workwear and garments from the healthcare sector – per annum. This is said to produce 281,500 tonnes of CO2.
But with some laundries estimating that up to 50 per cent of the hotel linen is returned with stubborn stains – and therefore deemed little more than ‘waste’ – the environmental impact of this throwaway approach is staggering. Half a million pounds – plus 24 months of research and development – has therefore been invested into devising a new solution to boost the amount of linen that can be reclaimed for reuse. A meticulously developed solution incorporating a number of new techniques together with sophisticated chemist ry, has allowed Regenex to successfully process 300 tonnes of otherwise – condemned material, during the pilot project – 100 per cent of which would have otherwise been ragged or landfilled. 74 per cent has been successfully reclaimed and returned to commercial laundries and hotels’ pool stock to continue its useful economic life. The remainder can be reused by overdyeing to a new colour, and repurposing or recycling.\