N.L. dry cleaners environmentally cautious

Operations moving away from use of cleaning chemical

Ashley Fitzpatrick afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com
Published on July 12, 2014

At the back of Custom Dry Cleaners on Mundy Pond Road in St. John’s, there are two white, plastic containers — each one about the size of a pair of stacked, salt fish buckets.

They are used in handling the crude, oil-like waste left behind in the dry cleaning process, after dozens of wedding dresses, hundreds of fine frocks and thousands of lucky suits are made ready to wear.

Under the federal Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, specific dry cleaning and reporting requirements relate to the handling of a chemical used in some dry cleaning operations, known as perchloroethylene or PERC, including the waste left behind.

The Telegram checked in with dry cleaners in St. John’s on their operations after, as Environment Canada noted in a news release on July 8, a business known as Lester Cleaners in North Vancouver was prosecuted and fined $9,500 for the improper handling of its waste.

There was no sign of any improper activity at the St. John’s operations.

“We follow the rules that you have to follow,” said John Kufudi, the owner of Custom Dry Cleaners, who did not hesitate to show the measures he has taken, adding Environment Canada staff have dropped by to check up on his business in the past.

Where his containers for waste are stored, they sit inside a grey-coloured impermeable box. The white containers are sealed and there are gloves and other personal protective equipment nearby, for use as required.

The area is separated from the main room where the dry cleaning takes place — a step removed from the heat and hissing of the day-to-day work.

“We have to file a report with Environment Canada, which is (to) advise them that we purchase so much chemical every year and we dispose of so many containers of waste,” Kufudi said.

There is a requirement for the waste to be taken away by a company certified for handling such industrial byproducts at least once a year; the Mundy Pond Road operation has a pickup about every four months. The last pickup was about 10 gallons, he said.

“They’ve come up with all new green machines now,” he added, explaining those machines can operate without the use of PERC and all of the requirements attached to it.

“It is expensive to purchase it, but in the long run you also save (on) disposing your chemicals,” he said, adding he is in the market for a new machine and has been looking at the “green” options.

There are plenty of considerations, including service provisions for the units. They are among the largest single assets for such operations.

Over on Pennywell Road, Deluxe Dry Cleaning has already gone green, so to speak, with its machines not requiring the use of PERC. The company has multiple locations in the metro area.

“As soon as the machines that didn’t use it were available, I was probably the first person in Atlantic Canada to buy them,” said owner Spiro Angelopoulos.

The machines, he acknowledged, were a significant capital investment. As for why he made the change when not required? “Why not?” he said.

“Eventually we’re going to be regulated to do it. It’s better for the environment, it’s better for the employees, it’s better for everybody involved.”

He still has the waste from his machines collected by a contractor, although it is no longer required to be handled in the same way.

He also continues to file annual reports with Environment Canada.