'Eco laundry vending machines': A step towards a greener future?

While many people are aware that the fashion sector is an industry with a huge environmental footprint, far fewer know about the harmful effect that washing and drying our clothes also has on the environment. A 2010 study by the Guardian showed that 2.4 kilograms of CO2 are released during a standard 40 degrees celcius washing machine cycle followed by a tumble dryer cycle. But what can be done to help the problem? Well, one UK company has attempted to tackle the issue head on - and their solution involves ‘eco-friendly laundry vending machines'.

VClean Life is a company in the process of rolling out 200 of their 100 percent green-cleaning vending machines - or ‘VDrops' - around the London Underground network. The concept of their "green-cleaning revolution” is simple: The customer drops their dirty laundry off at a VDrop and pays for the service through the app. Next, VClean Life’s fleet arrives, takes the laundry and cleans it with biodegradable detergent and conditioners. The customer then returns 24 hours later to collect their clothes, using a personalised QR code that they download through the app.

'Eco laundry vending machines': A step towards a greener future?

The idea is both eco-friendly and practical says Nick Harris, managing director and founder of VClean Life (pictured) in an interview with FashionUnited. “We are very focused on the environmental impact of the industry, and have sought all developments that can help with this," Harris said. "Our factory is the largest pure wet cleaning facility in Europe, and when installing it, we spent considerable time and focus on water reclaim and solar energy - our solar panels provide almost our entire electricity requirement. We also use no toxic solvents, all our soaps and conditioners are biodegradable, and our plastic covers are fully biodegradable.”

Harris hopes that this innovative method will shine a light on sustainability in an otherwise dated industry. "Unfortunately the dry cleaning industry is one that hasn’t seen much innovation and has very much been stuck in its old ways. We come from an entrepreneurial background, and as such, we’re always looking for ways to innovate,” Harris said.”

An innovative addition to a dated industry

Following its successful launch at Epping station, and the continued roll-out of VDrops machines on the TFL network over the last few months (North Greenwich, Loughton, South Woodford and Woodford stations are due to have the VDrop installed in the next few weeks), VClean hopes to have reasonable UK coverage of its VDrops by 2020. With garments costing 2.50 pounds, and items like suede, leather, and fur costing 3 pounds, VClean Life hopes to offer a convenient and affordable alternative to traditional laundry services.

VClean isn’t the only UK company trying to push the laundry sector towards a greener future. UK company Unilever has created a ‘Day2’ spray which aims to cut-down on unnecessary clothes washes. According to their research, as much as 40 percent of the clothes we wash aren’t dirty enough to warrant a wash, with 60 percent of millennials having a ‘chairdrobe’ in their room (a chair piled with only-kind-of-dirty clothes).

'Eco laundry vending machines': A step towards a greener future?

Their Day2 aerosol spray aims to eradicate this problem by giving slightly dirty clothes a faster and greener clean than they would get from a washing machine cycle. According to the Day2 website, each 7.50 pounds bottle saves a full load of washing and the 60 litres of water it would have required. The bottles are also air-powered so - apart from the process used to make them - they are carbon-neutral. As well as to Day2, Unilever is also in the process of developing a portion-controlled detergent in the Netherlands called Less, which shares the same aim of reducing carbon emissions and water wastage.

According to Grand View Research. the global laundry detergent market is expected to reach 108.3 billion pounds (205.2 billion US dollars) by 2025, up from 117.1 billion pounds (133.3 billion US dollars) in 2016. The research estimates that with the rising presence of washing machines in developing countries, an annual growth of the market of 4.9 percent is predicted.

Photo credit: VClean Life/Unilever


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