What Do You Do With Laundry's Leftovers?

Eric Frederick |

It seems like everywhere I go, someone is talking about how to protect the environment.
The Saturn car company is bragging about its assembly plant with zero landfill wastes and how good it is for the environment. This, of course, is easier to accomplish if you’re only an assembler of cars and not involved in the raw production of their parts.
To say the least, I think the ad is misleading. But still it points out that as a country and an industry, we’re all becoming more environmentally aware.
My laundry recently doubled the volume of linen it’s processing, and we purchased a number of new linen carts. At the same time, we designated a few older carts that needed to be replaced because they were damaged and no longer looked appropriate for use.
The carts in question were made of fiberglass and polyurethane. I’m confident that neither of these materials would ever break down in a landfill. So, the question arose: What do we do with these old carts?
I contacted all of the manufacturers and distributors of polyurethane carts to see if any of them would take the materials back and reuse them. They all told me they didn’t have a program to deal with old carts. They weren’t prepared to deal with material that might be soiled, or have oil, grease, tape or paint on them. Old carts tend to be nasty and not very clean.
Because our industry uses so many of these carts, I became increasingly concerned about the eventual future of these materials. My dreams were filled with landfills overflowing with old, damaged carts. I just knew there had to be a good answer to this problem somewhere but I simply hadn’t run across it.
I finally found the answer at the Association for Linen Management’s Southeastern Educational Conference in Myrtle Beach, S.C. There are companies that recycle various forms of plastic that would be happy to take these damaged, unwanted plastic carts off my hands. What a relief it was to finally find the solution. I still need to find a solution for those old fiberglass carts, so I’ll continue hunting.
We utilize a water-reuse system, and we recycle our plastic laundry bags, cardboard and paper products. We can now add to the list our ability to recycle old plastic carts.
We routinely recycle our old linens to either a rag company or to a charity organization that sends them to developing countries. We’ve even found a use for our old incontinent pads that our normal sources did not want: Animal shelters and veterinarians will gladly take them off our hands.
We’re definitely becoming a “green” laundry. Now, if I can just find a good use for the lint we collect, then I’ll have really closed the loop.

About the author

Eric Frederick

Carilion Laundry Service

Director of Laundry Services

Eric Frederick is director of laundry services for Carilion Laundry Service, Roanoke, Va., and past president of the National Association of Institutional Linen Management (NAILM), now called the Association for Linen Management (ALM). He’s a two-time association manager of the year. You can reach him by e-mail at


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