SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH — Cloth beats paper 12-0



The report by Ambiente Italia (that you can consult on Detergo web site) cancels every doubt arising from the comparison between the two types of tablecloths used in food service. All the categories examined, the crushing superiority of cloth has been declared as being environment friendly and sustainable. This data is to be used to do some pressing on institutions.

013_lapiazzetta_alteregostudio(s.f.) “The increase in paper use in tourism and food service, right or wrong?”. The title of the conference held in Florence in the fresco room of Regional Board organized by Consorzio Lavanderie Toscane, Confesercenti and Assosistema has been written in a form of a question.

The question asked a long time ago has finally been answered precisely, basing the answer on scientific data. In other words, numbers, not just words. To be exact, these are the figures given in a plethora of tables and details by “LCA, comparing tablecloth in real cloth with paper in food service and hotels sector” research, carried out by a renowned institute of research and consulting, Ambiente Italia, on behalf of Consorzio Lavanderie Toscane. Where LCA is an acronym of “Life Cycle Assessment”, that is an evaluation of a lifecycle.

001_lapiazzetta_alteregostudioThe answer to the question-title asked at the beginning is: “wrong”. The use of disposables in restaurants and hotels is nothing else but a contribution to the environment pollution as well as to flooding the production chain at waste disposal uncontrollably. Such a result, can only confirm, among other things, all the virtuosity of the “Notice the difference?” campaign, that supported by Detergo, Assofornitori and EXPOdetergo International was launched two years ago with a growing success.

Looking at the Ambiente Italia research by Andrea Moretto and Orsola Bolognani what strikes us is that comparing the average duration data such as 94 washing cycles of a single cloth with 94 disposables as far as the environmental impact goes, the cloth turns out to be much more upstanding than paper about every single parameter measured. The saving is constant as far as the renewable and non renewable resources, water consumption, global warming, ozone hole phenomenon, acidification, eutrophication, dangerous and non dangerous waste.

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This  fact has reasonably become the point of strength of Assosistema, an Italian Industrial Federation institution that is a point of reference for textile companies in tourism and healthcare sectors, an association – data revealed in Florence –  whose turnover is 4.2 million euro per year which gives work to 35 thousand employees, 93% of which hired permanently and 65% of which are women, with an average of 25 employees per company (a fifth productive sector according to Istat parameters, that means satellite activities with two million consumers per day of products and services offered by Assosistema companies).

These are all the preconditions that reinforce the fundamental value taken on through this report in a sector like laundry. If we check it in detail, we will only see the proof of it. Starting from the subject matter of the analysis that consists of comparing a square meter of a tablecloth with a square meter of a disposable product, where tablecloth stands for a standard set used at restaurants’ tables composed of a tablecloth, a stain cover and four napkins.

The lifecycle is the crucial parameter of reference here. In case of fabric, it starts from cotton fields and reaches its reuse in the laundry going through specific processes of fabric spinning, weaving and using. In case of disposable products, the cycle starts with the wood cutting in order to obtain wood necessary to obtain cellulose from which we obtain a tablecloth in paper to be used just that one time and put to waste after that.
3The comparison carried out by Ambiente Italia takes into account all the categories that define the environmental impact: the greenhouse effect, ozone layer hole, acidification, eutrophication, photochemical oxidants, the use of renewable and non-renewable resources, water consumption, waste production (dangerous and non-dangerous).

The superiority of cloth over disposables is total, crushing and clear in all the twelve categories examined in the research. Let’s have a closer look at them one by one: 94 disposable paper tablecloths consume 4 kilograms and 777 grams of non-renewable resources without energy containing against 0.841 kilograms of a single cloth that has undergone 94 washing cycles; 513 Mj of non renewable resources with energy containing against 329; 86 tones of renewable resources without energy containing against 34 tones; 86 cubic meters of water against 34; 43 kilograms of global warming emissions calculated over 100 years’ time against 18; 4,7 milligrams of ozone layer disappearing against 2,9; 23 units of photochemical smog against 10; 127 units of acidification against 52; 406 units of eutrophication against 19; 52 kilograms of non dangerous waste against 13; and finally 8 grams of dangerous waste against 6.

The research moves on to environmental benefits coming from converting disposables into tablecloths in fabric.

slider03Ambiente Italia has calculated a yearly quantity of paper tablecloths and tablecloths in fabric used in Florence considering various types of food services (base scenario) and hypothesized both a minimum and maximum scenario of conversion in order to stabilize the gap of environmental benefit. The environmental benefits linked to the conversion, for a part of food service in Florence, mean the reduction of paper waste produced by using the disposable paper tablecloths, and generally improving the environmental impact associated to the production chain of tablecloth for food services.

On the basis of accurate calculations, the base scenario concerning Florence estimates that the total yearly consumption of tablecloths in fabrics equals to 2.333 tones while the total annual consumption of disposable tablecloths equals to 1.911 tones. Considering that the average lifecycle of a tablecloth in fabric is 94 washing cycles (washing and using before dismissing), the total annual consumption is 2.333/94 = 25 tones of reintegrated tablecloths over a year. The total annual consumption of disposable tablecloths in paper is the same as the quantity of waste produced by restaurants and collected by waste collection service in the capital city of Tuscany (paper lifecycle end).

rc_powerscourt_powerscourt_house_table_settingIt is all more than enough to draw important conclusions. If we want to concentrate on just one of them, it would be a non-return point constituted by the Ambiente Italia research. Keeping this in mind, it is the associations of reference for the laundries together with the suppliers of laundry products and services that should start knocking on the right institutions’ doors. Simply in the name of the truth.


copertina Presentazione di PowerPoint-001Presentazione_LCA_Lavanderie_20152011 (click here)

For those interested in the details of this truth, it is possible to consult the entire research carried out by Ambiente Italia, entitled “”LCA comparing tablecloths in cloth and in paper in food service and hotel sector – Results – 20 November 2015””,  on the website of our magazine,


Detergo Magazine  January 2016

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