It’s not just about washing your clothes in a sunny spot, but also about getting rid of laundry detergen after they’ve dried out.
Sun-drying is a common part of home life and is often referred to as “washing for the sun” or “washing away for the air”.
But washing for the atmosphere isn’t always a safe bet, and sometimes it’s the only option.
Sun drying may actually be good for the environment, according to a new study from a group of environmental and sustainability experts.
Researchers at the University of Leeds, UK, examined a range of environmental factors including climate change, biodiversity, and air pollution, and compared them with laundry deterginics that could be made in-house.
They found that laundry detergins made in the UK had a lower emissions intensity than those made overseas, which could be attributed to better use of materials in the manufacturing process.
This makes sense because the laundry cycle is essentially the same as the chemical reaction that produces soap and water, according the study.
The researchers suggest that laundry products manufactured overseas are more environmentally friendly.
“The laundry cycle provides a very large volume of waste that can be recycled back into the environment,” said Professor Jonathan Smith, from the School of Chemistry and a researcher at the Leeds Centre for Sustainable Innovation.
“So if you are recycling that waste then you can actually make products that are much more environmentally sustainable.”
The study looked at the emissions of detergences made in both manufacturing facilities in the United Kingdom and in Australia.
“We looked at how much of the total waste produced in the laundry process goes into the atmosphere, and we found that the amount of CO2 produced by the laundry deterger in the Australian manufacturing facility was twice that of the UK manufacturing facility,” said study co-author Dr. Chris Beeson, from Leeds.
“In fact, the UK manufacture was responsible for about 40 per cent of all the CO2 emitted from the manufacture of laundry products in the country, compared to the UK’s manufacturing capacity of just 10 per cent.”
“In terms of the environmental impact, the US has the most efficient laundry detergetes in terms of their waste and their emissions per kilogram of product, whereas the UK has the least efficient,” he said.
“This is because they have a much lower production rate.
So the UK laundry detergets, because of the higher efficiency, actually emit less CO2 per kilo than the US laundry deterges.”
A laundry deterge made in Australia produced more CO2 than a laundry detergie made in China.
“While the manufacturing processes of the laundry and laundry deterging industries are very different, we found very similar amounts of waste in both processes,” Dr. Smith said.
He said the results of the study could help explain why the laundry industry has been a source of environmental concern since the 1960s.
“If we had done the same thing in the 1950s, we would have seen much more pollution from the laundry manufacturers because they had to use less materials and they had a much larger production rate,” he explained.
“But now the problem is different.
The laundry industry is so much more efficient and the recycling rate is much higher than in the past.”
And so we have the laundry companies that have invested in the production of detergent and detergens that are being used in the manufacture process of the products, which is very environmentally friendly.
“It’s not clear exactly how much CO2 the laundry products emitted when they were produced in Australia, but the authors say it’s likely to be less than 0.5 per cent.
The researchers say the study’s findings are likely to have some influence on the way people choose to wash their clothes.”
For people who don’t want to buy detergends, but want to wash them themselves, the results are not necessarily relevant because of their impact on the environment or the health of the environment as well,” Dr Beeson said.
The study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, was conducted by Professor Beeson and Dr. Sarah Houghton from the Leeds Center for Sustainable Science.
The research was supported by the National Science Foundation and the University Research Council.