Oxwash - can a new city laundry service save the planet?
In the run up to our Cambridge 'Science Cities' forum, we have been looking at a range of innovations that could help cities save energy and money.
One company - Oxwash - claims that there has been no disruption in the laundry industry, for example, since the invention of the washing machine, so it has set about proving a business model that is not only eco but is exciting the interest of investors as well as hotel groups and city councils.
The laundry service is based in Oxford. Its CEO Kyle Grant is an ex-aerospace engineer who trained for two years at NASA and then worked on 'circular ecosystems' in capsules at Space-X. Looking a for a new challenge and fascinated by legacy businesses in need of new angles of thinking, he created Oxwash in 2017.
Kyle said: 'It's unusual to go from space engineering to washing machines but there are similarities. We base all of our technology on the washing process. Laundry (as an industry) has a circular model but it is inefficient. It traditionally uses drinking water and very high temperatures with lots of energy, and the chemistry is detrimental to the global ecosystem.
'Add to this the logistics costs of servicing customers. Every time you wash a load you launch a million micro fibres into the ecosystem and these come back into the food chain, so we are all contaminated. We are naïve - currently - on the impact of these microfibres on ourselves and the planet.
'We are solar powered in our laundry with extra help from bio-propane, all of our transport is by zero-emission cargo bikes with boxes the size of a table and we can skip past traffic in city centres. The seed funding from Oxford Technology's Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme has allowed us to prove the model.
'The London Marathon, Marriott Hotels and the University of Oxford are among our clients, and our partners include Deliveroo and Airbnb. We are building our platform to service these new segments, serving them door-to-door and we are raising capital to tackle new cities including Bristol, Bath, Cambridge, parts of London and York. We think these 'lagoons' of business are franchisable and scale-able.
We wash at 20 degrees or lower and use ozone - like I did at NASA - to sterilise and we are partnering with Reckitt Beckinser to bring a genuine sustainable approach to laundry work.'
Come to our Cambridge forum on 20th November to discuss this and other innovations in making our cities more sustainable.