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It’s not just a matter of bon ton: the decision to opt for using fabric table linen rather than disposable solutions for your restaurant is also a more beneficial choice that is in line with the environmental sustainability policies which, especially nowadays, should be adopted by all businesses, including those in the catering industry.

In the last few years experts have been carried out dedicated studies which demonstrate the importance of reducing the use of disposable table linen in favour of fabric tablecloths. For example, one of these researches has been commissioned by the Consorzio Lavanderie Toscane (the Tuscan Laundry Consortium) to the consulting and environmental planning company Ambiente Italia SRL and it is based on a valutation and a comparison between the fabric table linen’s and its disposable counterpart’s life cycle. This study, which was focused specifically within Florence City Council, showed how the environmental impact of disposable tablecloths – in terms of energy consumption and production of pollution and waste emissions – is extremely high compared to that of fabric table linen, especially if you opt for eco-friendly laundry methods which reduce waste and use appropriate detergents. Going into further details – according to the study commissioned by the Tuscan Laundry Consortium – if we compare the environmental impact of using 94 paper tablecloths with that of washing a single fabric tablecloth 94 times, the latter is shown to have less of an impact in relation to all of the parameters considered.

More precisely, it emerged from the study that fabric table linen enables a saving of more than 80% of non-renewable material resources, 60% of non-renewable energy sources, 60% of water, 55% of greenhouse gas emissions and 75% of waste. Considering the environmental impact, if all the hotel and catering businesses in Florence City Council switched to using fabric table linen, approximately 3600 tonnes of pollution emissions would be avoided and waste production would be reduced by 50%. Translated into economic terms, savings on waste management would add up to between €111,000 and €185,000 per year; vice versa, if bars, restaurants and hotels in Florence exclusively used paper table linen, the process of waste collection and disposal would cost around €340,000.

The study conducted in Florence is not the only one carried out in order to draw attention to the environmental impact of disposable table linen in comparison with the fabric solution. Ambiente Italian SRL had actually already undertaken a study on this topic (presented in 2011), focusing on the situation at national level. In this case as well, the data that came to light left no room for doubt about the numerous advantages – in economic and sustainability terms – that moving from paper to fabric table linen would bring.

The authoritative voice of Aldo Mario Cursano, the president of FIPE Toscana (the association representing public services), decisively declared the superiority of fabric table linen in comparison to paper as well, while urging all restaurant, bar and hotel owners to reject the latter.

According to Cursano, fabric table linen – in addition to reducing environmental impact – fully reflects the values of Italian cuisine and tradition.

He also stated that if a restaurant chose to use fabric table linen rather than paper tablecloths, it should be rewarded by institutions; any restaurant deciding to pollute less and respect Italian traditions should not pay the same percentage of tax on waste as those public establishments which do not, on the other hand, have the same focus on protecting the environment. It is important to underline that an establishment could use the amount it would save on environmental taxes to hire two trainees for a year.