"Unfortunately, the UK lags behind many of our European neighbours when it comes to the treatment of waste textiles. "
Managing Director, David Midgley
A successful pilot project in Bradford – with half a million pounds of investment – has led to the launch of a 25,000sqft commercial cleaning operation that will help prevent UK linen and workwear from going to early landfill.
Two years ago, Regenex was simply a concept that founders David Midgley, Paul Hamilton and Matthew Whitehead hoped could tackle a mounting ‘green’ issue.
Only 15-20% of textiles disposed of in Europe are collected for reuse or downcycling at best, and the carbon impact of this throwaway mentality is vast, not to mention extremely costly.
With a wealth of textiles knowledge, these gentlemen know their cloth. So, they set about devising a new cleaning method that they believed could shift more complex stains – including self-tan, ink, mildew and concrete marks – from a range of linen fabrics.
Fast forward to the end of 2018 and the team has handled 300 tonnes of condemned linen and apparel from the hospitality, healthcare and workwear sectors, which would otherwise have been considered to have reached its ‘end of life’. 74% of this has been successfully reclaimed and reinserted into the commercial laundry industry’s pool stock, to continue its useful economic life. The average net cost saving – when compared to clients having to re-purchase each item – is 35%, but this figure has reached up to 80% for chef wear.
Now a fully-commercial operation employing 12 people and with capacity to handle at least 15 tonnes of linen per week, Regenex is on the hunt for more clients in 2019 and beyond. The management team is even offering a 400kg free trial to commercial laundry businesses in the UK, to demonstrate the effectiveness of the new system.
Commenting on the venture, managing director David Midgley said: “Unfortunately, the UK lags behind many of our European neighbours when it comes to the treatment of ‘waste’ textiles. The amount of commercial linen and workwear that we’re sending to landfill, per year is staggering. So is the environmental impact, and so is the business cost. This has to stop. That’s exactly why we’ve spent the last two years innovating, because environmentally-conscience consumers are starting to push back!”
“This is not to say efforts haven’t been made in the sector already. Continuous batch washing systems have made great headway in the reduction of energy usage, for instance, but the effectiveness of this approach is limited when it comes to removing difficult stains. We’ve read that up to 50% of linen returned to hotels for example, is still dirty. For many people, this renders items as nothing but ‘waste’, which we know is not the case. We’ve therefore come into the industry with a fresh pair of eyes, and hope that by challenging the status quo we can complement the efforts of the continuous batch washers – enabling the UK to “love its linen for longer.”
70% of a cotton bedsheet’s carbon footprint is reportedly generated in the harvesting, manufacturing and transporting of the product, before it has even been used. The Regenex team therefore knows that if they can extend the life of a perfectly salvageable piece of linen, they can avoid triggering this weighty carbon impact once again.
Keen to further minimise the net environmental damage of the process, steam and hot water from the Regenex plant is used by neighbouring textiles facilities. For the small proportion of linen that cannot be successfully cleaned, the team prioritises an overdyeing process that enables towels, napkins and other fabrics to be reused as a darker coloured item – still avoiding landfill.
“It seems fitting that Regenex is based in Bradford,” continued David. “We’re conveniently located in the heart of the country and close to the major motorway network, which makes it easy to work with clients throughout the UK. We’ve comfortably processed 300,000kg of linen to date, from virtually every corner of the nation.
“The city also has a rich textiles heritage, so it’s great to know that our operation is helping to preserve the lifespan of materials that have been so costly to produce. We’re very excited to see what 2019 brings for our rapidly expanding venture.”