Reusable Dry-cleaning Bags Available

August 21, 1991|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff writer

So you're looking for ways to save the planet?

Take your dry cleaning home in a nylon bag instead of a plastic one. Return your hangers, too, and save space in a landfill.

Customers at Avenue Tailor & Cleaners will be the first in the county to have the chance to switch from plastic to nylon bags.

"We need to recycle as much as we can," owner Stephen Wah said.

Wah expects to receive 500 navy blue nylon bags next week to use in his stores in Westminster and Eldersburg. Customers will pay a $7.50 refundable deposit for indefinite use of each bag, which also can be used tobring in dirty laundry. They can be used for three to five years.

He said he's paying about $7,000 for the bags, which will be imprinted with his store's name. The nylon bag company is allowing him to pay that over two years.

"I don't foresee all cleaners doing it because of the cost factor involved," said Wah, a 42-year-old Westminsterresident. "But I believe in recycling, and it's hard to put a price tag on that."

Alice Laban, a spokeswoman for the International Fabricare Institute in Silver Spring, Montgomery County, said, "The feedback from customers and dry cleaners is positive."

The IFI, a trade association for dry cleaners and launderers, has 13,000 members in the United States and abroad, she said.

Each year, from 1 billion to 3 billion plastic dry-cleaning bags and the same number of hangersare thrown in U.S. landfills, said Robert Uzzell of Safety-Kleen Corp., which makes the nylon bags.

Consumers are concerned about the environment and willing to make changes to help it, said Uzzell, Baltimore sales manager for Safety-Kleen, a hazardous waste management company based in Elgin, Ill.

"The public is demanding what companiesshould do," he said.

Norman W. Green of Westminster brings his shirts and slacks into Avenue Tailor every week and said he throws awaythe plastic bags. He said he probably will use the nylon bags.

Gloria Eby of Westminster said she would, too.

"We recycle anyway," she said.

Dry cleaners used thin paper bags to cover garments before plastic bags became popular, said Wah, a third-generation dry cleaner.

He said he expects about one-third of his customers to use the bags. He said he has 300 customers who come to his stores every week.

Safety-Kleen has sold 70,000 nylon bags since they went on the market in May, marketing manager Alan Gendreau said.

A handful of other companies sell similar bags, said Vincent Beazer, field director for the Neighborhood Cleaners Association, a trade group based in New York City and representing cleaners in nine states.

Safety-Kleen's bags come in two sizes: 34-inch for suits and shirts and 54-inch for dresses and longer garments, Uzzell said. The bags have a pocket on the back side for hangers and a smaller oneon the front where the dry cleaner can stash an invoice.

Wah said he first saw the bags at Clean '91, an international dry-cleaning conference earlier this year in Las Vegas.

Safety-Kleen estimates that the average dry cleaner using the bags will save $4,000 to $6,000 a year on plastic bags and up to $3,000 a year less on hangers, if customers return them.

Some dry cleaners are recycling plastic bags, but the practice is notwidespread, Beazer said.

Other county dry cleaners contacted saidthey are trying to recycle plastic bags, but have no plans to use the nylon bags.

Safety-Kleen is advertising its bags in national magazines such as BusinessWeek and People Weekly, Uzzell said.

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