Manhattan Dry Cleaner Receives Grant for New Technology

New York State Pollution Prevention Institute helps clean up dry-cleaning industry




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The New York State Pollution Prevention Institute has awarded Rainbow Cleaners of New York City a $17,500 grant to convert their operations from perchloroethylene to professional wet cleaning and demonstrate wet cleaning technology to other dry cleaners. Rainbow Cleaners is one of two New York state cleaners receiving this award.

A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 2 Source Reduction Assistance grant awarded to NYSP2I, which is housed at Rochester Institute of Technology, helped fund the purchase and installation of wet cleaning equipment. Professional wet cleaning is an environmentally preferable alternative to perchloroethylene, or perc, which washes dry-clean-only garments in water with specialized detergents and equipment.

“This grant will have many benefits over the next year and beyond,” said Anahita Williamson, director of NYSP2I. “On top of providing an environmental benefit for the community, Rainbow Cleaners will have the opportunity to become a leader in the implementation of wet cleaning technology and showcase this technology through demonstrations, which will be a great learning opportunity for their peers.”

Rainbow Cleaners currently operates using perc, the traditional dry-cleaning solvent that is linked to liver, brain and kidney damage. It is classified as a probable human carcinogen and persists in sediment and air once released into the environment. Perc is particularly problematic in New York City, where many dry cleaners are located on the bottom floor of apartment buildings.

Danny Yoo, owner of Rainbow Cleaners in midtown Manhattan, will install the washer, dryer and tensioning equipment this fall. “I am very excited to be using wet cleaning. The building residents, my customers and my employees all benefit from this safer technology,” says Yoo. “Rainbow Cleaners is transitioning their operations from perc to wet cleaning and plan to get rid of the perc machine later this year.”

NYSP2I will collect cost and performance data of Rainbow Cleaners’ past perc operations and their wet cleaning operations to compare the technologies. “Programs in Massachusetts and California, among others, have shown the benefits of wet cleaning and we hope to show those same benefits apply in New York state,” says Kate Winnebeck, New York State Wet Cleaning program manager. “We expect the data to show that wet cleaning uses less energy and water and is cheaper to operate than perc — all without perc’s toxicity concerns.”

This information will be used to encourage other cleaners to convert to wet cleaning technology and to educate New York state policymakers about the use of perc and wet cleaning at dry cleaners.

Rainbow Cleaners will hold two demonstration events to showcase the technology to other dry cleaners in spring and summer 2012. Anyone interested in attending a demonstration or for more information can contact Kate Winnebeck, New York State Wet Cleaning Program Manager, at 585-475-5390 or kate.winnebeck@rit.edu. For more information on the New York State Wet Cleaning Program, visit http://www.nysp2i.rit.edu/garment_cleaning.

The New York State Pollution Prevention Institute is a statewide research and technology transfer center funded by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. RIT and its partner universities, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Clarkson University and the University of Buffalo, along with the state’s 10 regional technology development centers together comprise the institute. The vision for the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute is to foster the transformation and development of sustainable businesses and organizations in New York in a collaborative program committed to making the state a leader in environmental stewardship.

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