Streetscapes opens eco-laundromat

At back, from left, the engineers from Zurich University of Applied Sciences in Switzerland Nadine Antenen and Devi Buhler. Seated is Lovuyo Elvis who works at the laundromat and Johann du Bois, social enterprise and operations manager at Khulisa Streetscapes.

On Monday, the Streetscape Garden team in Roeland Street received their first client at their new eco-laundromat.

The Observatory Improvement District (Obsid) delivered 30 pieces of bedding, including duvet covers, pillowcases and sheets from its supportive housing programme in Observatory, to support the initiative and help test the eco-laundromat.

The pilot project of the innovative water and energy self-sufficient laundromat, called LaundReCycle, forms part of a three-year research project conducted by Zurich University of Applied Sciences in Switzerland.

It was allocated to Streetscapes after the research team were looking for a community project and was introduced to Khulisa Solutions, which runs Streetscapes.

The laundromat aims to produce a small income for the project, as well as create work for clients who are part of the programme, as well as expose them to technology.

Streetscapes, in its sixth year of operation, attempts to tackle chronic homelessness, which is often combined with substance misuse and mental health issues.

Streetscapes offers long-term community-based rehabilitation that involves housing, work and the necessary psychosocial support.

Project manager and founder of Streetscapes, Jesse Laitinen, said by offering a laundry service and drying space in the Roeland Street garden, the team would continue to promote green, sustainable jobs for marginalised people.

“In the post-Covid world, this will be more important than ever.”

Zurich University of Applied Sciences has invested in the Khulisa Social Solutions Streetscape’s project to test the pilot facility with real users and customers.

The aim is to develop a marketable solution that can provide laundry services in rural or urban locations that do not have direct power, fresh or wastewater connection.

The eco-laundromat recycles water in a closed cycle.

Devi Buhler, a project manager from the university and one of the engineers, said the project was an initiative from the Swiss Embassy to bring innovation to Cape Town.

She said the water crisis in Cape Town back in 2017, as well as their research in conservation helped the team think of an idea to re-purpose water, and they came up with a laundromat using grey water.

The project was funded by Renewable Energy, Energy and Resource Efficiency Promotion in Developing and Transition Countries (REPIC), an interdepartmental funding platform of the Swiss government.

After a prototype was built, tested and developed for two years, another was built for the garden.

“We use a closed water cycle, meaning the water is constantly being reused. The washing machine is energy efficient, and the water is caught, filtered and then treated with biological treatment methods.

“The same process used in nature – with stones treating river water, for example – is replicated here.”

There is also a tank which collects rain water, which fills in the water losses, she said.

The laundomat runs on solar power, making it self-sustainable.

The system is also runs on solar power, and a battery which is used when there is no sun. “We are using no electricity from the grid for this system to run,” she said.

“Streetscapes Urban Farm is the ideal place to test this innovation with real users, allowing us to work closely with the community to understand their needs and requirements to finally develop a marketable solution.”

Johann du Bois, social enterprise and operations manager at Khulisa Streetscapes, said the project was part of a plan to broaden the activities on the farm by not only offering laundry services, but also by opening a nursery, organic vegetable sale stand and offering a cold drink or coffee to its customers, while they are waiting for their laundry and enjoying the lush garden in the centre of the city.

“Ultimately, we aim to become a social space where locals and tourists can visit the urban farm and learn about green technologies as well as our community-based rehabilitation programme. This will also allow for exposure to technology for our clients.”

Obsid CEO Amanda Kirk said they knew about the project as they had partnered with Streetscapes since April 2019.

She said Streetscapes also operates a supportive housing project in Chester Road, Observatory, while Obsid funds it.

“We thought it would be a good option to send it to the laundromat to help them receive a bit of income and and help them test the machine.”

She said the Obsid will continue to support the project by sending them loads of washing if they continue to provide cheaper than market rates.

Lovuyo Elvis with his first load of washing from the Observatory Improvement District.

The laundromat is being operated by Lovuyo Elvis, who is part of the Streetscapes programme. A man of very few words, he said it was going well, and he enjoys working on the project.