The drycleaning community, like other small business sectors, faces a tough time with consumer spends likely to come under increasing pressure. Often seen as a luxury, drycleaning can be expected to be an easy target for reducing expenditure.

So more than ever drycleaners need to be competitive and to offer a better service and/or to provide niche services that are not available elsewhere on the high street. These are fair ways to compete but there is one section of the community that is competing unfairly and illegally, saving money at the expense of others.

All drycleaners must be fully compliant with the regulations of the EU’s Solvent Emissions Directive. Under its terms drycleaners must apply for and pay for a permit to operate and meet limits on solvent use and other regulations and keep records.

One of the difficulties faced by the regulators has been tracking down drycleaners and ensuring that they are registered. Inevitably some are escaping the regulators’ eye. Whether through ignorance or simply because they think they can get away with it, such non-compliers are freeloading on their neighbours and they are breaking the law.

So it is time for the compliant members of the drycleaning body to get tough. This message is not new but it was delivered with particular force at the recent TSA/Guild conference in Scotland.

Norman Donnelly and Liz Dundas of SEPA , the national body that is responsible for enforcing the SED across the whole of Scotland, warned that a crackdown on non-compliance is on the way. SEPA oversees implementation of the SED in a wide range of industries.

Drycleaning is one of the smallest but it has the worst level of compliance. SEPA knows it must improve this.

Under a strategy of “better compliance” SEPA will be increasing its efforts to track down drycleaners that have failed to register or are in other ways non-compliant.

As a result inspections may be less frequent to allow the authority more time to identify cleaners who are dodging the law. There was also the implied message that the tougher penalties may be imposed sooner.

The method of implementation outside Scotland is different. In the rest of the UK it is the responsibility of individual local authorities. Already some have successfully prosecuted drycleaners for non-compliance.

All drycleaners, whether in Scotland or the rest of the UK, have a duty to the rest of the drycleaning community to register for that permit and to comply with its terms.

Both at the recent Scottish conference and at previous Guild/TSA events drycleaners who do comply, have been advised to report on non-compliant neighbours. This is logical but in practice some will find it a very difficult step to take, though in this competitive market it could be necessary.

Author Info:

Janet Taylor–