Laundry operators are called on to perform a delicate balancing act each and every day: clean their goods in an efficient, cost-effective way while conserving resources and preventing pollution.
They aren’t always successful, as the Ohio laundry president who was recently fined $5,000 and sentenced to probation for improper wastewater handling can attest.
With costs related to water and energy continuing to rise, equipment and systems intended to better utilize or even reuse resources grow more attractive.
As publicly owned treatment works (POTW) impose stricter discharge limits, laundries must either upgrade their treatment programs or install systems where none were needed previously.
Often, municipalities and utility companies encourage conservation by offering rebates or other financing incentives for private-sector investment in new technology.
TOOLS AND INCENTIVES
Water reuse, wastewater management and heat reclamation are among the tools needed to conserve water and heat, and reduce or even prevent environmental pollution.
Emmanuel Okoye, University of Washington Consolidated Laundry director, collects some recycled water in a bucket. The laundry's AquaRecycle system conserves approximately 18 million gallons a year.
• In 2005, Seattle Public Utilities and Puget Sound Energy partnered with the University of Washington Consolidated Laundry in Seattle to install an AquaRecycle water recycling system. Savings of 18 million gallons of water annually and more than $225,000 on the university’s water and power bills were expected.
Seattle Public Utilities and Puget Sound Energy provided more than 60% of the funding in the form of rebates.
• Also in 2005, Republic Master Chefs, and its parent company American Textile Maintenance, installed $390,000 of new equipment and systems to save up to 16.5 million gallons of water annually – or as much as 38% of the laundry’s annual water usage – in a Metropolitan Water District of Southern California conservation program that pays an incentive for new water-saving improvements.
The Los Angeles business worked closely with Norchem Corp. to upgrade its washwater and wastewater systems. It reclaims wash water leaving the tunnel washers, which is collected and pumped to a shaker to separate out solids.
Next, suspended solids are removed before the water passes through ceramic filters for purification. The water is then pumped into a holding tank (with no heat loss) before being returned to the tunnel washers for reuse.
The AquaRecycle system filters contaminants from the UW Consolidated Laundry's waste water – including lint, chemicals, organics and oil and grease – and is the first of its type to be used in Washington state.
“We’re glad to be Metropolitan’s first business to receive an incentive under the revised program,” Brad Shames, Republic Master Chefs president, said when the program launched in October 2005, “but this isn’t our first water conservation systems upgrade.”
Republic’s earlier installation of tunnel washers received incentives from the city of Los Angeles’ Department of Water and Power Technical Assistance Program, he explained.
• One of the biggest forms of recoverable heat leaving a laundry is in the waste water. Kemco Systems reports that it provided a wastewater heat recovery system to a national industrial launderer in South Carolina.
The system is preheating incoming and tempered water up to 280 gallons per minute from about 60 F to 97 F. The facility’s recovered heat is valued at about $32,000 annually for incoming water and about $75,600 per year on tempered water, Kemco says.
The Uniform & Textile Service Association (UTSA) and the Textile Rental Services Association (TRSA) have made pollution prevention a priority through LaundryESP® – the Laundry Environmental Stewardship Program.
When conceptualized in 1999, the program encompassed some 170 textile service member companies and 750 laundry plants that accounted for 70% of the industry’s production. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guided the textile service industry during its initial development.
Members voluntarily agree to use less water and energy, use more environmentally friendly wash formulas and significantly reduce pollution discharged to sewers.
The program grew in part from an EPA movement to require treatment of waste water by industrial launderers before it was discharged into municipal wastewater treatment facilities. The EPA withdrew the proposed rule the same year that LaundryESP was created.
At the five-year mark, results of the program were announced: a 40% reduction in pollutants discharged to sewers, a 12.5% reduction in water usage, an 11% reduction in energy usage and “significant substitutions” of environmentally friendly wash chemicals.
LaundryESP members also reported the following chemical changes:
• 100% increase in the use of peroxide bleaches, thus reducing toxic byproducts of chlorine bleaches.
• 29% and 13% decreases, respectively, in the use of aromatic and linear hydrocarbon solvents.
• An unspecified increase in the use of amphoteric surfactants and a decrease in the use of other surfactant categories.
• 57% increase in the use of enzyme-based detergents, thus reducing the need for high-pH and high-temperature wash formulas.
• A greater use of liquid injection systems for health and safety issues, convenience, greater accuracy and more efficient use of chemicals.
LaundryESP participant vendors, according to the program’s Web site, are Alpha Chemicals Services, Diamond Chemical Co., Dober Group, Ecolab, Gurtler Industries, Klipper Chemtrol Corp., Norchem Corp., Pariser Industries, Sunbow Technologies, Unichem, U.N.X. and Washing Systems Inc. (WSI).
Another pollution prevention program of note is the Industrial and Institutional Laundry Partnership under the EPA Design for the Environment.
The program offers partnership and recognition to companies that act as environmental stewards by improving the environmental profile of laundry products and processes.
Innovative and improved laundry formulations contain ingredients with lower inherent toxicity, less bioaccumulation potential, less toxic byproducts and more rapid biodegradability, the EPA says.
Companies recognized by the Industrial and Institutional Laundry Partnership project are Anderson Chemical Co., GEMTEK Products, Noramtech Corp., Norchem Corp., Sunburst Chemicals, SYSCO Corp. and U S Chemical Corp.
And most recently, in June 2006, the EPA kicked off its Safer Detergents Stewardship Initiative.
Similar to others, this program will recognize companies, facilities and others who voluntarily phase out or commit to phasing out the manufacture or use of nonylphenol ethoxylate surfactants, commonly referred to as NPEs.
Both nonylphenol ethoxylates and their breakdown products, such as nonylphenol, can harm aquatic life, the EPA says.