Commercial laundry is a multi-step process. The dirty clothes are collected- most of the companies do home collection- sorted, then washed and processed in huge batches. The toxicity of the detergent, excessive water usage and the refuse generated are reasons for hazard in commercial laundry. With the evolution of zero stain washing powders, cakes and quick-wash machines, the cost of energy that is spent is also getting figured in the looming crisis.
Hazards in commercial laundry process
“Laundry is a vicious cycle that invariably results in a host of adverse consequences and the main miscreant in the process is the detergent,” says Preeti Sukumaran, Co-Founder, Krya, an eco friendly FMCG brand.
Sunita Jaju, CEO, Rustic Art, an environmentally sensitive brand explains the kinds of damage that are inflicted on the environment when the detergents are washed into the flow of the sewage. “Phosphate-containing detergents can create algae blooms in fresh water. These in turn use up the oxygen available for aquatic life. The surfactants in detergents with their artificial colors which are toxic to aquatic life, persist in the environment and break down into additional toxic byproducts. The reduced surface tension of water also makes it easier for aquatic life to absorb pesticides, phenols and other pollutants in the water. The optical brighteners that do not bio degrade can cause allergies and skin or eye irritation. Moreover, the dust present during production and transfer of the bulk powdered detergent (and powdered raw materials) and the volatile organic emissions are serious problems to the environment.”
Whys and hows of laundry
With time and western influence, laundry is overdone in India. Being high in enzymes, stain removing and whitening agents, today’s detergents are over engineered for Indian use, for the colors and nature of fabric. Also, the quantity of detergent used in machines has gone up dramatically. “From 45 grams in 2003, now the amount is 90 grams per wash,” Preeti tells us.
But, there is a ray of hope amid the distress. Ten years ago, when the damage was talked about openly, the public response was close to nil. Eventually, the revolution in organic food products has certainly accelerated the awareness and led people to question the sustainability quotient in all other products used every day. Today the industry and the general public are waking up to the environmental and health hazards effected by laundry. Arjun Sharma, who runs Laundry Prime, an eco friendly commercial laundry in Noida is a proof of emerging India’s changing mindset. Arjun explains how he has established a sustainable process at his laundry his future plans. “We are mindful of the waste products our business creates, and the way it uses resources. So far we have achieved a sustainable cycle in collections, washing and packaging. Our collections are done in cotton bags, which are then put in bigger carry bags. The washing is done using natural detergents and minimal use of water. The used water, which is chemical free can be used for the garden. The cleaned garments are packed in bio-degradable poly delivery packs. We are planning to convert drying of clothes into 100% eco-friendly process by using solar energy for the same.”
“The sensitivity is coming through,”says Preeti. She shares consumer interaction by saying that Krya users, including the general public, designers and clothing brands are instinctive eco positive converts. “The Swachh Bharat campaign is indeed a trend-turner. The change is identifiable in commercial laundry detergent manufacturers too. The attempts to add natural and herb based ingredients in detergents has been a positive, hope giving change. Back in 2003, when the city faced an acute water crisis, Surf came up with a low foam product to suit the water efficiency, electricity efficiency and far less usage. ” Preeti highlights the water positive quality of Krya detergents that are made with traditionally-used, natural herbs and soap berries. “Krya detergents suit the gray water system and are widely used in Bangalore. There the washed water is used to water the garden. We have an entire breadth of product options to choose from and customers can try across the range.”
Rustic Art Laundry range has Soap nut powder or liquid and powders made of natural chemicals like soda ash and minerals like Borax. It also has power laundry for general use, little laundry for delicate fabric, bio liquid laundry (Made of oils with saponification process for delicate fabrics), bio laundry bar made of oils with saponification process. “The whole range is free of fillers, foaming agents, synthetic fragrances, brighteners, enzymes, bleach,” says Sunita.