As a long-time drycleaner, I found myself nodding my head in agreement throughout most of the article “Tomorrow’s too late” (LCN November 2001). However, there are several points that should be considered further.

We have a saying here in the US, “You can’t fight city hall”, which simply means that once the government takes a definitive course of action you just can’t get things back the way they were. Regardless of how you and I might feel about the relative safety of perc, so much damage has been done throughout the world that it is almost certain that the use of perc in drycleaning will soon be history.

With that in mind, I was particularly interested in the comments about the alternative solvents, one of which is GreenEarth Cleaning. We wholeheartedly agree that the alternatives must be proven from all aspects before being accepted by the drycleaner.

From your article, however, it is clear that you may not be up-to-date on the efforts we have made to prove conclusively that GreenEarth Cleaning is a good cleaning system, as well as being safe from environmental and health aspects. Please allow me to review what has been accomplished thus far.

As you know, at Clean ’99 we introduced the GreenEarth Cleaning system and announced that we would not immediately sell the process on the open market. First we wanted to prove to the drycleaning industry (and regulators) that silicone drycleaning is non-hazardous and safe to use. Through our Affiliate Programme, we did just that.

Over 13 months GreenEarth Cleaning was used at 25 sites in various regions, climates and machine configurations – including transfer systems. During this time 26,000 individual test measurements were performed by certified independent laboratories on all waste streams: filter cartridges, still bottoms, wastewater and air emissions. By all standards silicone drycleaning has been proved to be completely non-hazardous and safe. No other drycleaning solvent or process has gone to this effort and expense to satisfy environmental, health and safety concerns.

While silicone solvent may not clean as aggressively as perc, it is a very effective cleaner because of its low surface tension. For many garments cleaning is actually better because it does not damage delicate fabrics, fancy buttons or sequins, and it doesn’t melt glues. Our Affiliates report that claims are greatly reduced because of this.

During our Affiliate Programme it became clear that we needed more effective detergents and spotting chemicals for the process to be fully acceptable in retail drycleaning. We are pleased to report that in just three years of operation we have seen great advances in detergents and spotting chemicals developed by Seitz, Adco, Fabritec, Kleerwite and Caled.

In addition, we are very excited to announce that Procter & Gamble, one of the largest chemical companies in the world, recently became a joint venture partner with GreenEarth Cleaning and GEC. P&G has extensive experience with silicones and they have developed an outstanding detergent and prespotter for GreenEarth that will be manufactured and distributed by drycleaning industry chemical suppliers in the very near future.

As part of our efforts to prove the ability of GreenEarth, we are currently participating in an International Fabricare Institute Fellowship, with final results expected in around March. Preliminary results have been very good, and the final results will certainly satisfy any doubts about the cleaning viability of silicone cleaning.

Our Affiliate Programme also gave us the opportunity to test various machine configurations and work with equipment manufacturers to develop optimal cleaning systems. Union, Firbimatic, Realstar, Forenta, Böwe-Permac, AMA/Suprema and Hoyt, as well as other major manufacturers have devoted considerable engineering expertise and effort to developing high-quality equipment for silicone cleaning. Currently, dry-to-dry machines manufactured by Union, Firbimatic, Realstar and Forenta are approved for use with GreenEarth. In addition, we recently approved the use of a reclaimer made by Hoyt. Other equipment is in the beta field test phase and should be approved soon.

We are also working with a company that is testing the conversion of perc machines to safely and effectively use silicone. This effort is proceeding very well, and we expect it to be approved and ready to roll out very soon. This will allow perc drycleaners a far less expensive option to purchasing a new machine.

With more than 10,000,000lb of garments cleaned to date in 165 machines at 133 locations in the USA, Canada, Japan and the UK, it is clear that the GreenEarth Cleaning system is, indeed, a commercially proven alternative to perc drycleaning.

James P Barry Chairman