Rules and regulations
Solvents are an everyday essential in the dry-cleaning business. Over the past decade, the cost to the UK dry-cleaning sector of the most widely used dry-cleaning solvent - perchloroethylene (perc) - is estimated at approximately 1 per cent of turnover. However their use poses potential human and environmental hazards and, as a result, is strictly regulated. It is therefore essential to have some sort of effective solvent management to help maintain profits and reduce the impact of the business on the environment, and hence make it easier to comply with current and future environmental legislation.
Perc falls within UK and European legislation regulating volatile organic compounds. The EU's Solvent Emissions Directive (EC/13/1999) requires dry-cleaning activities to meet a total emission limit of 20g of solvent emitted per kg of product cleaned and dried or implement a solvent reduction plan. All new installations and those modified substantially since April 2001 have to meet the directive requirements.
Any new equipment must conform to European standards, as specified in ISO 8230-1:1999 and ISO 8230 2:2008 Safety Requirements for Dry cleaning Machines using Perc.
The standards deal with the significant hazards particular to the use of perc, including the inhalation of unhealthy vapours, perc contact with the skin or the eyes of the machine operator. It also deals with water and ground contamination, such as seepage into the ground and sewer during operation and maintenance.
Dry cleaners should also pay attention to Environmental Permitting Guidance on the Solvent Emissions Directive, 2007 from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).