WAYNE, Pa. — Hospital laundry facilities are the most promising sector for reducing consumption and lowering expenses without affecting patient care, Crothall Services Group reports in a recent issue of Celebrations, its company publication.
Millions of gallons of water, thousands of megawatts of electricity, and tons of rubbish pass through hospital laundries every year, says Crothall, which provides contractual environmental services, laundry processing and other facility management services to 1,500 clients in 43 states.
The company reports having begun to embark on a number of initiatives to provide solutions for ambitious green laundry processes, from new fabric technologies and efficient water utilization to “dumpster diving” to improve waste management.
Laundry operations may not leap out as environmental magnets, siphoning resources, but Crothall says the annual effects from an average hospital are staggering: 120 million gallons of water consumed, 100 tons of plastic trash created, and thousands of tons of linens discarded.
Conventional green initiatives have included reducing water use with tunnel washers and cutting electricity by using heated wastewater to pre-heat wash water, but Crothall says it has invested in broader laundry cycle research to identify new areas in which resources may be saved.
“My goal is to continue to develop revolutionary solutions simple enough to share across the industry for the benefit of everyone,” says Michael Bailey, Crothall’s senior vice president.
Three processes have been implemented at different Crothall-managed facilities:
• Reusing rinse water as the initial wash water for the next load of laundry; in conjunction with low-consumption tunnel washers, this lowers water use to less than a gallon per pound of laundry, Crothall says.
• At the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Crothall appointed someone to spend three hours a day sorting through the hospital’s waste to find discarded linen. In 2005, the program rescued linen worth approximately $1.5 million from the trash. Items such as recyclable cardboard and expensive medical instruments have also been recovered.
• Introducing reusable or recyclable soiled-linen collection bags, eliminating 90 tons of plastic garbage annually.
Continuing research areas include:
• Evolving weaving technologies for fabrics to increase linen lifetimes by 50%.
• Sterile processing of surgical linens, saving 1,500 tons of waste.
• Mandating phosphate-free and NPE-free detergents and cleaners in Crothall facilities.
An archive of Crothall’s publication is available at http://crothall.com/celebrations/2008-08.