At the Bidvest Laundry Group, our commitment to our people, to eco-friendly technologies and green energies is ongoing…

We promote sustainability wherever possible and pride ourselves in constantly seeking out the most environmentally-conscious and cost-effective laundry processes. We do this through the continuous monitoring and active improvement of water and power consumption, chemical and fabric efficiencies, as well as through our day-to-day company culture and approach to skills development.

People & Productivity – The safety, health and wellbeing of our people are all part of the daily operations, and a way of life, at Bidvest Laundry Group. Our transformation, education, bursary and skills development initiatives are geared towards empowering people, to assist them in accessing the economy in a sustainable manner. In terms of our workforce, 60 percent are female and our people come from within the local communities. The culture in our business is one of continuous learning, to help enhance both current and future skills requirements.

Water Saving & Recycling – As an industrial laundry, we rely heavily on water and our usage is monitored by local municipal services. We make use, primarily, of borehole supply at most of our inland production sites, while we have other contingencies in place in coastal areas such as Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth, where we are unable to use borehole technology due to the proximity to the ocean and the salinity of the water.

In geographical areas where water is under threat, we employ solutions such as water re-use systems, as well as water storage – the 115 000-litre storage facility in our Port Elizabeth operation, for example, enables processes to run for longer should the water supply or pressure dwindle in that area.

In Cape Town, we have installed a Membrane Bioreactor (or MBR) and reverse osmosis system which recovers, reprocesses and repurposes water to go back into the laundry, ultimately reducing the demand on council supply by as much as 80 percent. This is over and above the other water-saving initiatives already implemented at our Cape Town operation, which began in earnest during the severe drought in the province in 2018.

For us, the biggest saving concern in our factories is water and we’re always looking at ways to conserve it. A traditional washing machine uses anywhere between 16-25 litres per kilogram, whereas our tunnel washers use only about 8 litres. Plugging any leaks in the system takes top priority too, as every drop really does count.

Coal & Energy Consumption – We place a great deal of focus on fuel and CO2 emissions, in particular the coal usage in our production processes. We use only A-grade peas coal, as using a lower grade would mean that our boilers would have to work harder and longer to yield the same output. So we always opt for the highest grade, around 27.5/28 CV (calorific value), and that allows us to run at a lower bed height – i.e. we throw less coal onto the grate, to extract the maximum amount of energy, to achieve the steam temperature that we require to heat up our various processes.

Steam is vital in our particular style of laundry, the one exception being our Montana Laundry division, with their on-premise laundry solutions that rely on electricity alone. That said, they do remove certain heating elements from their machinery to reduce the draw, while still maintaining the efficiency of the machines. They also make use of geysers where feasible and oil-heated ironing technology helps reduce the energy footprint.

To add to our ongoing energy savings, we recently completed a project in our Spartan Head Office, where we put in a single PBW (Pulse-Flow Batch Washer) to replace two of our older CBW (Continuous Batch Washer) machines. Essentially the same type of machine, the PBW is able to sustain the work that these two machines would traditionally have done in a normal workday, plus the way that it utilizes water is much more efficient, which will have a significant long-term impact on the water usage at our Spartan facility and other branches in the future as we continue to introduce new and/or repurposed wash technology to assist us in reducing our overall water and energy load.

In terms of solar energy, we presently have a rooftop installation only at our Spartan Head Office, as the required roof area in our other plants is insufficient at this time to make the proper energy-saving impact using current solar solutions.

Chemistry & Fabric Efficiencies – At the Bidvest Laundry Group, we continue to source detergents and additives that contain less harmful chemicals such as the high levels of sodium hydroxide, nonylphenol ethoxylates and sodium tripolyphosphate used in previous years. We work in close partnership with Ecolab, a global leader in water, hygiene and infection prevention solutions and services.

Named one of the world’s most ethical companies for 15 years in a row now, they have amongst others, implemented a low-temperature wash process which helps energy consumption, while still getting the wash clean and helping to lengthen the lifespan of garments.

Furthermore, using their biodegradable formulations has assisted us in reducing our reliance on the traditional high alkalinity/high temperature processes of yesteryear. We now have access to certain chemistry that helps prolong the lifespan of reflector tape as well as effective soil-release agents that reduce re-wash, thus increasing productivity.

When it comes to fabrics, we invest in only the best on the market, so that they will sustain their contract periods. We also undertake test washes on fabrics where needed – for instance, acid-resistant garments – to ensure that their coatings are safe and effective for the industries that require this type of workwear and protection for their employees.

Lastly, we also consider implementing technologies such as Radio Frequency Identification scanning software (RFID) to be an example of sustainable practice, as it allows us to automate a number of key processes, including collection, sorting and tracking of garments, so there’s less garment loss and/or need for replacement.

Today’s customer wants to know exactly what you’re doing with regards to sustainability, down to the last energy-saving and people-uplifting detail. At the Bidvest Laundry Group, we are wholly committed to sustainability, from a holistic approach – social, environmental and economic – and we are constantly looking for ways to tick the boxes in these areas.

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