What's all the fuss about waste?
NSW is producing too much waste. Landfill options are fast becoming more limited and therefore the cost of transporting and disposing of waste is increasing. For both environmental and economic reasons it is essential that all businesses reassess their traditional waste management practices, such as disposing of all solid waste into a bin for collection. Here are some simple ideas:
- First, know your waste. Conduct a waste audit and find out what your waste consists of, how much you produce and how much it costs you to dispose of it.
- Second, reduce your use of raw materials such as solvents, paper and plastic containers. This saves you money.
- Third, reuse materials. This saves more money. For example encourage patrons to return wire coat hangers and plastic covers. Recover PERC from your wastewater for reuse.
- Fourth, send materials off to be recycled or reprocessed, such as cardboard, packaging, containers and plastics.
- Last, only when you have tried the above options should you dispose of waste material.
What does this mean for dry cleaners?
Like many businesses dry cleaning operations generally produce two classifications of waste product: liquid waste and solid waste.
To reduce wastes, dry cleaners will need to focus on waste management rather than solely on waste disposal. This will require a shift in attitudes and practices with an emphasis on preventing and reducing rather than on treating and disposing of wastes.
Whatever the nature and characteristics of the waste may be, it all has one thing in
common: all waste represents loss of resources and loss of money. Once you identify opportunities for reducing your waste production the process will also identify opportunities to save you dollars.
So, what can dry cleaners do to minimise waste?
Because waste disposal and treatment can be costly it makes good sense to have closer look at the materials, processes and equipment you use, to see where you may be able to save materials and dollars.
- Conduct a waste check or audit to identify your major waste types, sources and volumes and determine how much your wastes are costing you. Once you know the type and quantity of waste you produce, you can begin to compare how much it costs to dispose of it.
- After you have conducted your waste audit, work out a plan to avoid, reduce, reuse and recycle your wastes. Set some targets to work towards in minimising your wastes. Waste disposal should be the last option on your plan.
- Inform your suppliers and customers about your commitment to waste eduction and ask for their support.
Tips on how you can avoid, reduce, reuse and recycle solid waste
If your business is producing waste, it is costing you money and there should be a better way to do what you are doing. Improving your operating procedures or changing the way you do things can make a difference:
- Implement better housekeeping procedures by keeping storage and work areas clean, organised and labelled.
- Regularly review your inventory and stock-management procedures. This may help you identify any materials you are over-using; inaccurate measuring that is resulting in overuse and wastage of materials; whether new materials delivered are in acceptable condition; and the batches of materials that need to be used next. Use a 'first in, first out' materials policy to avoid wastage of materials that are out of date.
- Minimise the handling of materials to reduce contamination and the potential for spills. The more spillage, the more waste material is generated to clean it up.
- Improve maintenance procedures to cut losses from leaks or inefficient operating equipment.
- Improve scheduling to reduce cleaning requirements.
- Reuse your waste on site.
- Any solid waste material, generated from your dry cleaning process, contaminated with the solvent PERC (such as drums, plastic containers, filter waste, muck, spent carbon filters, lint or lint filters) MUST be disposed of at an appropriate waste facility which accepts hazardous waste.
- Under no circumstances can hazardous waste be disposed of with your normal solid waste.
- Store waste materials, contaminated with PERC, in sealed and properly labelled, impervious-to-PERC containers and in a bunded area or on a spill tray until collected.
Smarter purchasing, less packaging, less to dispose of
Where possible choose, or specify to your supplier that you want, items with less or no packaging. Although packaging is important for preventing product damage, excessive packaging is not necessary.
- Avoid packaging your products or purchasing materials with excessive packaging such as shrink-wrap, plastic bags and strapping and boxes inside boxes.
- Ask your suppliers to either take back the waste they have passed on to you and/or find a supplier who will provide items with less packaging. Alternatively, ask your suppliers if products can be delivered in returnable packaging. Will they collect drums, crates and containers from the last delivery?
- Use recycled and unbleached paper products and labels where possible. This saves trees and creates a demand for recycled products.
Waste separation and recycling
Waste separation and recycling can reduce average waste collection costs by half. Ask your council if it has a recycling service available. If not, a commercial recycling service may be an option. Look under 'Recycling' or under 'Waste Reduction & Disposal' in your local Yellow Pages.
There are many excellent collection systems available to make waste separation and recycling easier. Ask your council or waste services company whether it can provide waste separation bins suitable for your business.
Industrial post-consumer waste, such as plastic film (transport packaging), is often suited for mechanical recycling, as it is a large volume of the same type of plastic and relatively clean waste. PET soft drink bottles and HDPE milk bottles are other examples of plastic that can be recycled. Check with your local council for the types of plastics that are collected in their kerb-side collection service to understand which plastics to reuse and recycle. Avoid buying products in plastic containers that cannot be recycled or reused.
Most chemical containers and drums are currently unrecyclable, so you should either reuse them or return them to your suppliers. Most suppliers will collect, wash and refill drums. Many large plastic drums now carry cash deposits. If your supplier will not collect them, there are others who will. All glass bottles and jars are recyclable and most paper and cardboard products can be recycled.
Clothes hangers and plastic covers
The Drycleaning Institute of Australia (NSW) has initiated a program encouraging dry cleaners to reuse wire coat hangers. Contact them on (02) 9328 4626 for more information on how to obtain a wire recycling rack.
Did you know plastic bags can take 5 to 10 years to decompose once disposed of to landfill? Encourage your clients to return plastic clothes covers for reuse. You will be surprised at how many customers will participate in a program if they know that
their simple contribution can help the environment.
Tips on how you can avoid, reduce, reuse and recycle liquid waste
Trade wastewater containing PERC can be disposed of to the sewer only with proper pre-treatment. Refer to Trade Wastewater for further details.
Any other material put into your regular waste bin will generally go to landfill. It is not suitable to put any liquid waste into your waste bin, such as unused or old chemicals, discarded detergent bottles still containing product etc. Place only dry, solid, inert wastes into your regular waste bins.
- If it is safe to do so, drain and clean anything containing leftover fluid, i.e. rinse out the residue detergent from the bottle into the bucket when you are washing floors.
- Never mix or decanter chemicals together that you are unsure of, or those that are not of the same product. This may cause dangerous chemical reactions and/or produce toxic gases. If you have a collection of old chemicals, detergents etc store them in separate containers in a suitable storage area and arrange for a waste collector to remove them. Alternatively, if there is not a large quantity of the product, take them to a chemical disposal point yourself.
- Ask your local council if they have either mobile or permanent chemical collection points in your locality.
- A useful tool for measuring the efficiency and performance of your dry cleaning operation is known as solvent mileage. Solvent mileage is a measure of the amount of clothing washed (kilograms) per amount of solvent PERC (litres) consumed. High solvent mileage means that PERC is being used efficiently. An example of good solvent mileage on a dry-to-dry machine would be 50 kilograms of garments washed per litre of PERC. If the same machine was operating inefficiently or a comparison made to an older style machine, the solvent mileage could drop to less than 35 kilograms of garments washed per litre. Reduction in solvent usage means reduction in operational costs.
- Before you dispose of filter cartridges, drain them in their canisters for at least 24 hours using a funnel to minimise spillage and collect the drained solvents for reuse.
- Liquid PERC can migrate through concrete floors and contaminate soil and ground water. To minimise the potential for liquid seepage contaminating the soil beneath your premises, use a trough, spill trays and floor sealant for all dry cleaning machines and solvent containers.
- Determine the efficiency and environmental performance of your current dry cleaning equipment. When equipment needs to be repaired or replaced, look for alternatives that will help you reduce the overall wastes you generate, for example older machines release solvent laden vapour to the atmosphere during the drying cycle and are more likely to leak emissions containing PERC. Machines that control and recycle solvent vapour will use far less PERC solvent than the older machines that don't recycle vapour. It is possible to retro-fit some older machines. Any liquid wastes (e.g. sludge and scum) awaiting collection by a licensed contractor should be properly labelled and packaged, and stored within a secure and bunded area.
Managing and handling your liquid waste on-site
- If liquid waste is stored on-site it should be labelled and packaged properly and then stockpiled securely (e.g. in a roofed and bunded area where rainwater cannot enter). Any stored wastes that find their way into the stormwater system (especially during rain) could cause pollution, and you could face an on-the-spot fine or prosecution.
- Remember, if you are a generator of hazardous waste you are responsible for classifying it and ensuring that it is transported to a facility that is licensed to receive and/or treat that type of waste. Your waste contractor should be able to provide advice on these issues.
- Tipping liquid waste into the soil on your property is illegal with heavy fines and a likely notice to clean up the contaminated land (a very costly exercise).
- Some problem wastes, such as drums containing hazardous waste sludge(including filter wastes, muck waste, spent carbon, lint or lint filters) require special attention for safe and proper disposal. Ask your local council, DECC Environment Line or specialist waste contractor for disposal requirements for these wastes.
- Your local council
- DECC Environment Line, Tel:131 555
- The Drycleaning Institute of Australia (NSW) (02) 9328 4626
- Yellow Pages â€“ look under 'Waste Reduction & Disposal Services'
Page last updated: 27 February 2011