OXWASH and Star Linen announce new eco-friendly linen partnership

When Stephen Broadhurst and Kyle Grant found themselves sitting next to each other at an event for hotel and spa housekeepers in Oxford last summer it led to more than the usual polite chat we all enjoy at such functions.

Our industry’s networking occasions can provide superb learning curves and ‘lightbulb moments’, and this was no exception. By the time the session came to a close, Broadhurst, MD of commercial linen suppliers Star Linen, and Grant, a scientist and co-founder of OXWASH, the eco warrior laundry, had discovered they had they had a lot in common.

They left determined to change the face of the sector. With their pioneering renewable energy and biodegradable, cruelty-free detergents and eye-catching electric bike delivery system around Oxford, OXWASH have been making headlines. But what they launder, and where – and how – it was originally produced was a nagging ethical issue in their minds, just as tends to be in those of their many customers who strive for a ‘green’ lifestyle.

Nor can the Oxford laundry wash the whole world, so environmental concerns about detached microfibres poisoning our oceans and food chain from other laundries across planet, let alone those from the home market, remained.

One load of washing can result in as many as 17 million tiny plastic fibres being shed, some of which can return to us in an unwanted way – perhaps in a delicious seafood platter as we enjoy the fish which had unfortunately themselves dined on the fibres.

OXWASH battle back against all this with low temperature washes and put items such as fleeces in sacks called Guppy Bags before washing, to help catch shed microfibres. Meanwhile, with their regenerated linen range, Star Linen have been on their own mission.

They’ve sought to provide a product that alleviates some of the environmental issues associated with the production of textiles from scratch, whilst not compromising at all on the quality of product that they provide. Regenerated linen is produced from the reconstituted fibres of finished products that have been broken down and thoroughly treated to make them molecularly identical to freshly-harvested cotton fibres.

The finished product is almost indistinguishable from conventionally-produced linen, but requires vastly lower levels of water in the production of the fibres. In addition, it cuts down on waste in the production process, and eliminates the environmental costs associated with intensive agriculture.

Recalling that first meeting, Broadhurst says: “It was blindingly obvious – one of those moments – when you realise that a shared concern had the best chance of achieving success by working together.” Fast forward and Grant, who could bring academic and engineering expertise to the party, now has the Star Linen chief as an unpaid non-executive member on the board of OXWASH, adding additional sales and marketing talent to the fast-growing start-up.

Grant explains: “At OXWASH we are interested in the whole environmental footprint of what we are processing, whether it be electricity and water usage, whether it’s organically produced, the complete supply chain and matters such as sustainability – it’s not just about what we do on site and the electric bikes.” Both are determined to face head on the fact that conventional methods of textile processing and linen production have a multifaceted and unsustainable impact on the natural and human environment.

They are scrupulously following the chain right through from growing or manufacturing products to what happens to an individual piece of linen during its lifespan, and all the knock-on effects, until it is hopefully recycled. Cotton processing requires large amounts of water – for example, the ‘water footprint’ accumulated during the life of a single bed sheet has been scientifically calculated to be 2,839 gallons.

In areas where water resources are already used for irrigation of cotton fields, this can have a drastic impact on the environment. Labour practices in much of the industry have long lagged behind the high standards that Star Linen strives to maintain; in developing countries where linens are produced, labour laws and workplace health and safety regulations may be poorly enforced or actively flouted by unscrupulous employers. And then there’s ‘cutting corners’ on ethical production requirements. For example, cotton certified as organic may have actually been grown in close proximity to crops sprayed with inorganic fertilisers or pesticides, so allowing weather and wildlife too easily ‘pollute’ the supposedly organic plants.

At Star Linen their regenerated linen is produced from the reconstituted fibres of finished products that have been broken down and thoroughly treated to make them molecularly identical to freshly-harvested cotton fibres. The finished product is almost indistinguishable from conventionally-produced linen, but requires vastly lower levels of water in the production of the fibres. In addition, it cuts down on waste in the production process, and eliminates the environmental costs associated with more intensive agriculture.

That Star Linen also have robust structures in place for the inspection of their supply chain and maintain high ethical and environmental standards throughout the production process was bound to attract the interest of the OXWASH team, with their own determination to hunt down all the handy ‘loopholes’ or practices which inadvertently damage ethical provenance.

And unlike many competitors, Star Linen’s UK management and inspectors also regularly travel to visit production sites and certify compliance with environmental and ethical standards. So, they really do have ‘people on the ground’.

All the environmental issues, from ethical and organic farming through to work Star Linen is doing on reducing loss of microfibres through new weaving processes will come under scrutiny as a result of the partnership.

The long-term goal of the partnership is to become a guiding light in the industry for best practice. For award-winning OXWASH, with their determination to revolutionise the way we wash, reuse and recycle, it’s a chance to combine eco-friendly washing processes, zero -emission door-to-door delivery with their hunger to tackle the most pressing problems in washing science and sustainability.

As the partnership develops between these teams on a mission, Grant concludes: “It would be nice to see that in a few years people couldn’t remember a time when we did it differently.”

When Stephen Broadhurst and Kyle Grant found themselves sitting next to each other at an event for hotel and spa housekeepers in Oxford last summer it led to more than the usual polite chat we all enjoy at such functions.

Our industry’s networking occasions can provide superb learning curves and ‘lightbulb moments’, and this was no exception. By the time the session came to a close, Broadhurst, MD of commercial linen suppliers Star Linen, and Grant, a scientist and co-founder of OXWASH, the eco warrior laundry, had discovered they had they had a lot in common.

They left determined to change the face of the sector. With their pioneering renewable energy and biodegradable, cruelty-free detergents and eye-catching electric bike delivery system around Oxford, OXWASH have been making headlines. But what they launder, and where – and how – it was originally produced was a nagging ethical issue in their minds, just as tends to be in those of their many customers who strive for a ‘green’ lifestyle.

Nor can the Oxford laundry wash the whole world, so environmental concerns about detached microfibres poisoning our oceans and food chain from other laundries across planet, let alone those from the home market, remained.

One load of washing can result in as many as 17 million tiny plastic fibres being shed, some of which can return to us in an unwanted way – perhaps in a delicious seafood platter as we enjoy the fish which had unfortunately themselves dined on the fibres.

OXWASH battle back against all this with low temperature washes and put items such as fleeces in sacks called Guppy Bags before washing, to help catch shed microfibres. Meanwhile, with their regenerated linen range, Star Linen have been on their own mission.

They’ve sought to provide a product that alleviates some of the environmental issues associated with the production of textiles from scratch, whilst not compromising at all on the quality of product that they provide. Regenerated linen is produced from the reconstituted fibres of finished products that have been broken down and thoroughly treated to make them molecularly identical to freshly-harvested cotton fibres.

The finished product is almost indistinguishable from conventionally-produced linen, but requires vastly lower levels of water in the production of the fibres. In addition, it cuts down on waste in the production process, and eliminates the environmental costs associated with intensive agriculture.

Recalling that first meeting, Broadhurst says: “It was blindingly obvious – one of those moments – when you realise that a shared concern had the best chance of achieving success by working together.” Fast forward and Grant, who could bring academic and engineering expertise to the party, now has the Star Linen chief as an unpaid non-executive member on the board of OXWASH, adding additional sales and marketing talent to the fast-growing start-up.

Grant explains: “At OXWASH we are interested in the whole environmental footprint of what we are processing, whether it be electricity and water usage, whether it’s organically produced, the complete supply chain and matters such as sustainability – it’s not just about what we do on site and the electric bikes.” Both are determined to face head on the fact that conventional methods of textile processing and linen production have a multifaceted and unsustainable impact on the natural and human environment.

They are scrupulously following the chain right through from growing or manufacturing products to what happens to an individual piece of linen during its lifespan, and all the knock-on effects, until it is hopefully recycled. Cotton processing requires large amounts of water – for example, the ‘water footprint’ accumulated during the life of a single bed sheet has been scientifically calculated to be 2,839 gallons.

In areas where water resources are already used for irrigation of cotton fields, this can have a drastic impact on the environment. Labour practices in much of the industry have long lagged behind the high standards that Star Linen strives to maintain; in developing countries where linens are produced, labour laws and workplace health and safety regulations may be poorly enforced or actively flouted by unscrupulous employers. And then there’s ‘cutting corners’ on ethical production requirements. For example, cotton certified as organic may have actually been grown in close proximity to crops sprayed with inorganic fertilisers or pesticides, so allowing weather and wildlife too easily ‘pollute’ the supposedly organic plants.

At Star Linen their regenerated linen is produced from the reconstituted fibres of finished products that have been broken down and thoroughly treated to make them molecularly identical to freshly-harvested cotton fibres. The finished product is almost indistinguishable from conventionally-produced linen, but requires vastly lower levels of water in the production of the fibres. In addition, it cuts down on waste in the production process, and eliminates the environmental costs associated with more intensive agriculture.

That Star Linen also have robust structures in place for the inspection of their supply chain and maintain high ethical and environmental standards throughout the production process was bound to attract the interest of the OXWASH team, with their own determination to hunt down all the handy ‘loopholes’ or practices which inadvertently damage ethical provenance.

And unlike many competitors, Star Linen’s UK management and inspectors also regularly travel to visit production sites and certify compliance with environmental and ethical standards. So, they really do have ‘people on the ground’.

All the environmental issues, from ethical and organic farming through to work Star Linen is doing on reducing loss of microfibres through new weaving processes will come under scrutiny as a result of the partnership.

The long-term goal of the partnership is to become a guiding light in the industry for best practice. For award-winning OXWASH, with their determination to revolutionise the way we wash, reuse and recycle, it’s a chance to combine eco-friendly washing processes, zero -emission door-to-door delivery with their hunger to tackle the most pressing problems in washing science and sustainability.

As the partnership develops between these teams on a mission, Grant concludes: “It would be nice to see that in a few years people couldn’t remember a time when we did it differently.”

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