BCC and member columns in the news

The British Cleaning Council and members write monthly columns for both Cleaning and Maintenance and Tomorrow’s Cleaning. You can read recent columns below.

To read the columns as they originally appeared, please visit https://cleaningmag.com/columnists and https://www.tomorrowscleaning.com/back-issues

We fight on to make sure the industry is heard

By Jim Melvin, Chairman of the British Cleaning Council (BCC). (This article was first published in Tomorrow’s Cleaning in November).

We recently contacted opposition parties to request a meeting to discuss key and pressing cleaning and hygiene sector issues but to our frustration and disappointment they, like the Government, have responded but without hard dates to meet.

I am amazed and baffled that the BCC, as representatives of one of the ten biggest industries in the UK, worth almost £59bn and employing 1.47m people, have yet to be recognised, but you only need to read and hear the ridiculously out-of-date narrative from the new Home Secretary Suella Braverman on ‘unskilled labour’ when, by the Government’s own figures in September, there were 1.26m more vacancies nationally than people to fill them and that this has risen by 59% from the 2022 January to March quarter!

They have consistently listed cleaning and hygiene as unskilled which is unimaginable at a time when Covid cases seem to be rising again and as we go into the traditional flu season.

To qualify the importance of our message, which was brought home in stark reality recently, were recent warnings of the risk of a resurgence in flu infections coinciding with a major wave of Coronavirus cases over winter to cause what is being called a ‘twindemic’.

For clarity, cleaning staff are on the frontline continuing to assist in protecting the public from this kind of risk as during the Covid-19 pandemic. Staff have focused on ensuring workplaces and public buildings remain virus-free and safe to use, with enhanced cleaning regimes and new working practices being introduced across the board, requiring staff to work with greater disinfection skills.

Yet this critical role of keeping public spaces free of viruses could be further hampered this winter by an ongoing recruitment crisis, the scale of which was recently highlighted when figures showed that the number of job postings for cleaning staff increased by 11 per cent in just one week, a higher rate than for nurses, care workers or primary school teachers.

Staff shortages could make any ‘twindemic’ worse and arguably put more lives at stake.

Perhaps the Home Secretary should consider this along with her ‘unskilled labour’ views and dreams of scheduling flights to foreign climbs.

Politicians of all stripes should be both interested and care about the industry’s concerns especially in relation to public health. Their continued lack of action more than suggests that they don’t and they are therefore arguably equally as guilty of being wholly ineffective to date in relation to our industry.

It is incomprehensible that our meeting requests have been overlooked. Getting the chance to air these important issues should not be too much to ask. We will continue to drive for what the industry requires.

The recent inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the sector has proved to be an important channel for getting our message across.

The inquiry into the role of cleaning and hygiene during the Covid-19 pandemic, entitled Embedding Effective Hygiene for a Resilient UK, is producing a report which will feed into the national UK Covid-19 Inquiry

During the inquiry, I briefed MPs very clearly on the need for recognition from Government that cleaning staff are frontline keyworkers and play a vital role in keeping people safe, healthy and well.

I also argued for Government to work with the industry to:

  • review recruitment in relation to staff availability, the Immigration Act, the Apprenticeship Levy, rates and specification requirements
  • develop a short-term and long-term strategy for the industry in relation to training and skills and changing cultural and social attitudes to make the profession a more attractive choice of career.

I sincerely hope those in power will hear and simply pay attention. We will continue fighting to ensure the voice of the industry is heard until they do. After all – it is their job.

Commercial laundries plan major sustainability push: ‘everybody does it, or it doesn’t work’
TSA initiative to cover everything from energy saving technology to creating a circular economy

By Shyju Skariah, director of programmes and projects at the TSA. (This article was first published by Cleaning and Maintenance in December).

The laundry industry is gearing up to implement a major sustainability drive, working in conjunction with specialist consultancy Grain Sustainability.  The initiative was unveiled at the Textile Services Association (TSA) Spring Conference, where members enthusiastically bought into the concept.

With the button pushed, Grain is now undertaking a comprehensive assessment of the laundry industry through research, surveys and interviews, including its suppliers and its customers, with the aim of presenting TSA members with a series of objectives and an ambitious sustainability roadmap.

We need to understand where we can improve.  In fact, the laundry industry already has an enviable record on sustainability.  By its nature the service it provides is circular, since it is about reusing textiles and thus avoiding disposable products.  In addition, the industry committed to making a 25% reduction in gas and electricity consumption between 2012 and 2021.

It was great to reach that target, but the hard work begins now.  We need to look at new areas, such as investment in highly efficient industrial heat pump systems.

A key area of sustainability will be an increased focus on circularity.  Each year UK industries, such as hospitality, healthcare and manufacturing, source 7,000 tonnes of textiles which are then cleaned and processed by commercial laundries.  We know what happens at ‘end of life’ to less than half of this volume – not much of which goes for long life recycling.  There is still a big gap when it comes to understanding the journey of our textile products.  We need to make sure that most of the individual components of these 7,000 tonnes are being reused, recycled or turned into something productive. Cotton for example is an easily recyclable material, however separating zippers and reflective tapes from PPE garments is a much more demanding process.  We cannot begin to make any lasting changes until everyone in the value chain is actively involved.

I spoke to Christoph Geppert who heads the Grain team helping the TSA.  “Circularity is more than tracking, reusing and recycling,” he says.  “It means looking at the entire value chain, from growing the cotton and transport to optimising end of life solutions.  We have to educate laundries, their suppliers and their customers to understand the complexity of textiles, to de-commoditise them.  A single kilo of cotton textile can take thousands of  litres of water to make.  Meanwhile thousands of tonnes of cotton go to waste every year.  That’s unsustainable.”

Commercial laundries won’t be able to realise the circularity vision on their own.  As an example, when sourcing textiles, their longevity and recyclability need to be key specification criteria.  We all have to understand the process, and work with our customers and the textile supply chain.  If we don’t cooperate, we won’t make it.

Everybody does it, or it doesn’t work.

Working together with the TSA and its members, it will take Grain around six months to complete the initial assessment of the laundry industry, to structure the tailormade approach for the sustainability strategy and to prepare a detailed implementation plan.  The implementation plan is laid out over the next years, defining short term, medium term and long term goals.

The sustainability plan will set us on the journey that will make a real difference.

For more information on Grain Sustainability visit grain-sustainability.com

The TSA is the trade association for the textile care services industry. The TSA represents commercial laundry and textile rental businesses. Membership ranges from family-run operations through to large, multi-national companies.  Visit www.tsa-uk.org for more information.

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