Laundry’s role in sustainability

29th of June 2023 Article by Lotte Printz
Laundry’s role in sustainability

A Swedish CEO is urging public bodies not to forget laundry in their initiatives, reports Lotte Printz.

“It really doesn’t have to smell like lemons to be clean,” Mats Marklund, CEO of Swatab points out in Swedish online cleaning newsletter, Cleannet.

An argument that may seem obvious for people in the industry, but nevertheless calls for both instruction and a change of attitude within Swedish municipalities and society as a whole.

Even though municipalities have made efforts to clean without detergents, cleaning and washing account for approximately 70 to 80 per cent of their chemical use and according to Marklund they’ll have to take a closer look at that, especially if they want to become chemical-free.

Marklund acknowledges these bodies have paid attention to and, to a certain degree, dealt with the problems related to chemical use in cleaning. But it isn’t enough.

“Local authorities are now aware of environmental issues and sustainability and have become great at buying cleaning solutions without chemicals and toxic substances. The change I want to see is making laundries chemical-free as well. Not until then can they say they run a sustainable sector,” Marklund says.

He adds: “If cloths are washed with detergents and fabric softeners and later used to clean a table or other surfaces, for example, they’re still spreading chemicals.”

Marklund also points a finger at the general notion in society that something is only clean if it smells nice, which often leads to an extra drop of detergent here and there.

Quitting detergents in laundries, in addition to those in cleaning, is an important piece in the puzzle to become a more sustainable sector. Thinking of alternatives all together is another. But municipal decision makers are often reluctant to make large investments in this area, Marklund argues.

Last year the requirements towards environmental awareness changed. Previously, municipalities in Sweden were urged to bear the environment in mind – now they have to take the environment into account in public procurement. So, they shouldn’t feel bound by framework agreements made with manufacturers and suppliers of certain detergents any longer, Marklund notes and lists a number of other things to be gained from quitting chemicals besides the positive impact on the environment.

It would reduce allergic reactions and headaches among employees and other people in facilities of the local care sector. And this, in turn, would reduce sick days in the sector with an obvious financial benefit as a result. And if the manufacturing of detergents were to be discontinued all together, less money would be spent on transportation and logistics.

Not surprisingly, Mats Marklund’s own company offers an alternative solution. But it doesn’t change the fact he has a point. Companies should continue to develop sustainable solutions and public bodies have a willingness to invest in them for the long-term benefits.

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