Interview with Fredrik Lagerkvist: Sustainability lands in cotton

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Sustainability issues are important for the Swedish laundry and textile service industry. Optimization of water, energy and chemicals is a matter of course for the authorized T-labeled laundry facilities. Now the companies are also reviewing the use of cotton textiles. The forest and recycled fibers can become the new cotton fields.

- The cultivation of cotton is very resource intensive. The World Wildlife Fund WWF estimates that the production of one kilogram of cotton may require up to 29 liters of water. The cultivation also takes up large areas and requires large quantities of pesticides, states Fredrik Lagerkvist, CEO of the textile service partner Textilia, which is at the forefront when it comes to the development of environmentally friendly textiles.

Two alternative routes

Textilia mainly works within two new tracks - textiles from wood fibers and textiles from recycled fibers from both cotton and polyester. Customers, not least in the county councils, have shown great interest. Of course, the issue of sustainability is interesting, but also that the new textiles are sometimes even better.

- It is believed that environmentally friendly means gray, hard and square. It's not like that. For example, we have a towel in a mixture of polyester and wood fibers. In addition to giving a lower environmental impression during manufacture, it also dries faster in the dryer. It lowers our energy consumption. The towel also has better absorbency compared to cotton terry and is perceived by many as softer, says Fredrik Lagerkvist.

Comfortable arguments New wood fibers need 90 percent less water compared to cotton terry and less chemicals. Already that knowledge can feel comfortable for buyers and users. But during long workouts, comfort is undoubtedly also crucial. After all, the arguments are very convincing. For the alternatives must come, emphasizes Fredrik Lagerkvist.

- There is a limit to how much cotton can be produced. We are starting to approach "peak cotton".

The volume products give effect

Textilia works actively to introduce the alternatives among its volume products. It directly gives the greatest environmental impact. Alternative cellulose is available today in staff clothes, bed linen and terry towels provided by Textilia. Recycled cotton is available in draw sheets and recycled polyester in bed and terry cloth.

- We have long agreements with our customers, often 6-8 years. Many of these agreements were signed before the alternatives existed, and of course we do not throw functional garments. It would be really bad environmentally. As the agreements are rewritten, we introduce alternatives that have a lower environmental impact. It is in the dialogue that we feel successful. I think that over time we can replace most of our textiles with new alternatives.

Closes the cycle

Textilia washes 100 tonnes every day and discards 100 tonnes of textiles for one year. An important question is whether these can be recycled to thereby end the cycle. Today it is possible to recycle pure cotton and pure polyester. Material with recycled fibers thus takes place in Textilia's range. However, many existing garments consist of a mixture of fibers. Then it immediately becomes much more complicated.

- Technically, it is incredibly difficult to recycle textiles with different fibers. They must be separated. Through our skilled textile manager, we are involved in a number of projects that work to find an energy-efficient solution. It is a few years ahead, but it is a big step forward if we succeed in this in the laundry and textile service industry.

Told for Ulf Silfverström

25% RUT deduction on laundry