An interview with Michelle Urvall - Ashraf, Head of Sustainability at Oxwash
As firm believers in collaboration and partnerships, this is another partnership that we are super proud of sharing with you. It is a privilege to be able to co-operate with Oxwash, a company that helps to change the world ... 'One wash at a time’. How do they do it and why – more to read below in our conversation with Michelle Urvall - Ashraf, Head of Sustainability at Oxwash.
We have talked with her after Oxwash installed PlanetCare microfibre filters and our partnership - a partnership with purpose, as we like to call it - officially started.
PlanetCare: Oxwash is quite a game changer in the washing industry, isn't it? What led you to the decision to go into the laundry segment in the first place and then to so profoundly disrupt the settled procedures?
Michelle, Oxwash: I joined Oxwash because I am really interested about the role that laundry and clothing aftercare has in circular fashion. Most of us don't think of the environmental impact laundry - it's just this everyday task that has to be done. But traditional laundry and dry cleaning has a huge environmental impact using resources like water, energy and highly toxic chemicals so there is a lot of work to do there. In that way, sustainable laundry practices and clothing aftercare have a really important part to play in circular fashion because it reduces the environmental impact of the use-phase and make sure they don’t end up in landfill prematurely.
PlanetCare: How do Oxwash ensure a closed loop washing service and why is it important?
Michelle, Oxwash: For us, it is important to reduce the environmental impact of our service throughout the process. Besides reducing energy use through lowered wash temperatures, reclaiming water and avoiding hazardous chemicals, we aim to reduce waste as much as possible. Our detergents are delivered to us on a closed-loop scheme - this means we don't throw out or even recycle any detergent bottles, they are simply refilled by the manufacturer who picks them up in a zero-emission vehicle. We also try to reduce the waste in our operations through reusing hangers and bags.
Oxwash has also developed emissions-reduction targets with the goal to be net zero by the end of 2023. These targets have been reviewed and validated by Science Based Target Initiative (SBTI) and are consistent with the requirements to keep the globe below 2°C warming and align with Paris Agreement emission reduction forecasts.
PlanetCare: When did the microfibre pollution come into picture? When did Oxwash first become aware of it and when did you decide to act? (A huge 'Thank you' for doing so, by the way!)
Michelle, Oxwash: We have been aware of microfibre pollution since launching Oxwash, but for a long time, we had no reliable way to mitigate it. It is always tricky when you are a pioneer in your industry - some things don't exist yet or aren't produced at scale! In 2021 we installed PlanetCare microfibre filtration on our wet clean washing machines, which capture more than 95% of all the microplastics shed during washing.
We want to be recognised as a business who are constantly changing and operating in a way that benefits the wider community and we would like to use our business as a force for good for the planet and people.Michelle Urvall - Ashraf
PlanetCare: Do you see any change in the perception of your customers - since your beginnings till today, has the awareness about the need to act more friendly towards the environment increased? Do people care more, what are your insights?
Michelle, Oxwash: Customers' awareness of environmental and social issues is constantly increasing and with that their expectations of what we do to create a positive impact. We can tell that more individual customers are better informed, they seek out information and are sensitive to greenwashing and false claims - rightly so. In the last year, we have also seen a sharp rise in business that we work with asking about environmental credentials.
We want Oxwash to be recognised as a business who are constantly changing and operating in a way that benefits the wider community and we would like to use our business as a force for good for the planet and people. We are really proud that after a long and rigorous journey, Oxwash is now a Certified B Corporation and earned an overall score of 94.8!
PlanetCare: We love the idea of calling your washing facilities lagoons... where does it come from?
Michelle, Oxwash: When we painted the floor blue in our facility, it looked like a pool. It's inspired by lagoons having a balanced ecosystem whereby the water quality and the animals and plants around and in them are in balance.
PlanetCare: What is Oxwash's promise to your customers, to the world?
Michelle, Oxwash: Our promise is to never stop improving our technology and facilities to provide the best professional garment cleaning process. Not only keeping it in the lowest impact we could but also the hyper-efficient methods which always treat customers’ items with care.