Happy Earth Day!

I believe that everyday is Earth Day. Today I want to express my opinions about drycleaning and the environment. These are my opinions from working in the industry for many years and being interested in protecting our environment most of my life.

The most frequent questions I get from the general public are normally related to drycleaning and the environment. Drycleaners get a lot of bad press in this area. And really that is too bad. However, the industry has brought this upon themselves through poor practices. Today this industry is heavily regulated. Drycleaners, like any business, respond to what their customers want. So the biggest thing you as a consumer can do is voice your opinions!

Here are some things you can think about when considering environmental concerns:
  1. Ask your cleaner what they are doing to be environmentally conscious. The answer should be a list - not just the type of solvent
  2. Be aware that operating in an environmentally conscious way is more expensive - beware of the "cheap eco-cleaner"
  3. Take back your plastic
  4. Take back your hangers for reuse - please be gentle with them! Reuse saves tremendous resources. Often the fatigue strength of hangers (due to the extrusion process) is such that the metal can no longer be recycled. Hangers are the last stop for metal on the way to a landfill - so be gentle and re-use them.
  5. Voice your willingness to pay extra for environmental bags
  6. Be aware that using less chemicals, or less harsh chemicals increases the labor necessary to remove stains. More time must be spent doing hand removal by a specialist - this increases the cost (Harsh chemicals in the machine removes more stains). Something that use to be removed without comment may need more time and effort.
  7. Solvent types include: perc, petroleum (often called organic, however perc is organic by definition also), green earth (silicone based, and not organic), water, CO2. ----
Perc and Petroleum have been around pretty much since drycleaning started. So any cleaner that uses something other than these 2 solvents, is probably working to minimize their environment impact.
Drycleaning uses very special chemicals and solvents that are not fully understood. The majority of publicized environmental concerns are about the solvent. While it is true that if a drycleaner does not maintain their equipment, or operate it correctly, they may release toxins into the atmosphere and into the ground, careful use of any equipment results in 95% or better recycling of the solvent. The remainder should be disposed of properly.

The 2 most "environmental" forms of drycleaning are considered to be "wet cleaning" or CO2 cleaning. Wet cleaning uses water instead of a chemical solvent and CO2 uses liquid Carbon Dioxide.

Wet Cleaning is promoted by our local EPA as environmentally superior. However I question this, at least where I live, where water shortages occur more frequently than I would like. Drycleaners (as opposed to industrial laundries) are still allowed (and really have no other choice) to discharge the water, soap, etc., down the drain. NONE of the water is recycled by the cleaner. Even if the cleaner is conscientious and uses only full loads - there is still an impact on the environment.

Thanks for your time, and remember to tread lightly!

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