LaundReCycle – a Water and Energy Self-sufficient Laundromat
South Africa’s water resources are under pressure and the development of new solutions is urgently needed. The aim of the LaundReCycle project is to develop a water- and energy self-sufficient laundromat that does not require any power, fresh- or wastewater connection and offers socio-economic development to local communities.
While the City of Cape Town has already experienced a severe water crisis in 2018, other regions across the country are increasingly at risks of facing the same fate. At the same time, there are many people without access to laundry services such as residents from rural and informal settlements or homeless people. While there is an increasing demand for laundry services, the use of washing machines is often limited due to the lack of access to household water services and stable electricity supply.
With the aim to offer access to laundry services, and to enable a sustainable water and energy supply, the project aims to develop the LaundReCycle in order to address two topics:
- Enabling water and energy self-sufficiency: The LaundReCycle system is an autonomous unit that can be installed in places without direct freshwater, sewer or grid connection or in any region, where water is a restricted resource.
- Local community empowerment: The LaundReCycle offers educational opportunity, income generation, and economic growth potential for residents by i) offering training particularly for youth and females, ii) creating micro-enterprises and jobs along the value chain, iii) relieving residents of manual washing, in particular females, and therefore providing more time for income generation through other activities.
The project develops and improves the LaundReCycle in terms of technical, financial and operational performance. The LaundReCycle prototype in Switzerland tests the technical feasibility and main operational aspects before full transfer of knowledge to the South African partners for the construction of South African prototype in the City of Cape Town. The purpose of the prototype in South Africa is to analyse the operational performance and social aspects. Lastly, specific actions will be taken towards entering the market in South Africa.
The technology of the LaundReCycle is based on so-called "short-cycling system", where the wastewater of the washing machine is treated on-site and constantly reused for the same purpose, namely laundry. The system is based on a resource efficient low-tech approach and the exploitation of natural processes.
In a first step, the wastewater is mechanically pre-treated by separating solids and removing excess detergent from the wastewater. In a second step, the water is biologically treated in a trickling filter column and a green wall. Water losses are compensated through rainwater collection. The system is powered by a stand-alone photovoltaic system with battery storage.
In January 2021, the LaundReCycle pilot facility was launched in Cape Town together with the Swiss Embassy. This step marked the start of the testing phase under real-life conditions. Together with the NGO Khulisa, the LaundReCycle is being tested and further developed both technically and economically.
At a glance
- Project leader: Devi Bühler
- Deputy of project leader: Prof Dr Ranka Junge
- Project team: Matthias Frei, Nadine Antenen, Bernard Wessels, Bobby Mabe
- Project duration: 2019 - 2021
- Funding partner: Federal government (REPIC Platform)
- Project partners: Water Rescue, Soweto Structural Steel, Khulisa, Abderhalden Gartenbau AG
- Contact person: Devi Bühler
- Bernard Wessels
- Bobby Mabe