People who know me are surprised by my position on plastic because of my feeling about conservation and the environment. My biggest challenge with drycleaning when I returned to the industry was the plastic! . . . . I found a solution, for me and my clients. We collect the plastic and sell it to a US manufacturer of decking material. I would name the company here, but they asked me not to. They have been recycling plastic for 20 years, and produce an upscale product they feel would be denigrated if people knew it was created with recycled plastic.
The article I read was published in American Drycleaner Magazine and it was written by Bruce Luetzow, Partner, Luetzow Industries.
I have been unable to find an online version, and hope that they forgive my reproducing it here, in its entirety. I hope to get some feedback on the article - thanks.
- A reusable garment bag ad states, "The simple step of switching (to product X) will help to reduce the estimated 300 million pounds of single-use plastic dry cleaning bags a year that continue to clog our landfills and kill our marine and wildlife" Not True.
- David Laist, a senior policy analyst with the federal Marine Mammal Commission, has stated: "In their eagerness to make their case (against plastic bags), some of the environmental groups make up claims that are not really supportable."
- Some people believe that plastic bags "clog up" landfills. Not true. According to the California Integrated Waste Management Board, plastic bags (including retail, grocery store, and garment bags) use up only 0.3% of landfill space. Plastic garment bags make up a small percent of this figure.
- Due to misinformation relentlessly spread by the media, many people believe that plastic bags kill many sea mammals and seabirds each year. The San Jose Mercury News stated in an editorial, "Plastic bags kiss an estimated 1 million seabirds and 100,000 other animals every year, whether from eating the things or getting tangled in them." Not true. The London Times exposed this myth. The report on which the myth is based mentioned discarded fishing tackle that included fishing nets, not plastic bags. David Santillo, a marine biologist at Greenpeace, told the Times, "It's very unlikely that many animals are killed by plastic bags."
- Due to misinformation, some people believe plastic bags are not recyclable. Not true. Special plastic bag recycling bins have been installed in large supermarkets, retail stores and drycleaners throughout the country, or bags can be taken to local recycling centers or returned to the manufacturer. Virtually all of the plastic bags deposited in those bins are recycled and made into new plastic, plastic bags, or composite lumber.
- Due to misinformation, some people believe that paper bags are better for the environment than plastic bags. Not true. Paper bags result in between 2.0-3.3 times more greenhouse gasses than plastic bags.
- Some people believe that items labeled or stated to be "green" are green. Questionable.
- An editorial in the London Times stated, "There is a danger that the green herd, in pursuit of a good cause, stumbles into misguided campaigns. . . . . Many of those who have demonized plastic bags have enlisted scientific study to their cause. By exaggerating a grain of Truth into a larger falsehood, they spread misinformation and abuse the trust of their unwitting audiences."
- Reusable garment bags ads state that they "protect the clothes better, are safer, are so much better for the environment, save drycleaners thousands, are waterproof, are water-resistant, breathable, better, much safer, cheaper." Well, let's see.
- Mr Dry Cleaner, with your cleaning processes and skills, you renew the life and put freshness into your customer's cleaned garments. Finished packaging into a polyethylene garment bag showcases your professional work and markets the finished product. It becomes a walking advertisement of your skills that others can expect if they bring their garments to you for cleaning. Everyone can see the professionally cleaned finished product hanging from your slick rack. The garments and bags sparkle as they hang, the garments are clean, identification is easy, the customer is happy, and the garments are now clearly protected. A clear advantage of disposable poly garment bags is the guarantee of a clean, clear bag every time.
- Most reusable garment bags are made of solid, opaque cotton, nylon or non-woven polyprpylene material, making it impossible to see the cleaned garments within. The marketing of your cleaning skills stays hidden. Identification of the enclosed garments is not an easy task, unless one likes constantly opening and closing the reusable bag.
- Taking dirty clothes to the drycleaner in the reusable garment bag (now a dirty hamper bag) makes it necessary for the cleaner to not only clean the clothes but also the reusable bag. Some reusable bags that are not effectively cleaned can have a negative effect on human health and the environment due to bacterial growth. Many bags require hand washing if one really wishes them to be clean, which is time-consuming for the drycleaner or the bag owner.
- Most reusable bags are manufactured and imported from China, and many have been found to contain lead, mercury and other heavy metals. U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has called for a federal investigation into toxic materials in reusable shopping bags. Questions have also been raised as to whether or not the lead could be spread in landfills when the bags are discarded.
- Reusable garment bags that wear out quickly also take up space in landfills. Most are not biodegradable or compostable. All the different materials used in their construction (zippers, drawstring closures, see through front pockets, etc.) make trying to recycle some of them an expensive nightmare at best, and may not be economically possible at all.
- Early last year, the United Kingdom government Environment Agency published a life-cycle assessment of plastic, paper and reusable bags. "The study confirms that reusable bags are not inherently better for the environment than plastic bags. Reusable bags have to be used a tremendous number of times to provide an environmental benefit to conventional plastic carryout bags. The reality is that huge numbers of reusable bags are being thrown away before they are used the requisite amount of times."
- As the late President Ronald Reagan stated, "Trust, but verify." How true this is, especially with products that are labeled or stated to be green -- Bruce Luetzow www.americandrycleaner.com