By Linda Hunter
Shu Tan is my hero. She is the proprietor of Jack’s Laundry where I take my shirts to be laundered and ironed. Last year, Shu hung The Watershed Project’s Trash Compactors poster, the everyday heroes who are putting a dent in our addiction to plastic. Shu was a featured in our poster and is making a difference in an industry that has not been known for its fidelity to the environmental movement. Dry cleaning generates 300 million pounds of plastic waste each year– plastic waste that pollutes our oceans, rivers and lands.
Shu’s small act of courage made people in my community take notice. Today, more and more of Shu’s customers are saying, “no plastic, please.” Think about it. That bit of petroleum product covering your suits, shirts and dresses gets used just until you decide to put your fancy frock on and then the bag gets tossed directly into the trash! There is also evidence that leaving one’s clothes in a plastic bag actually damages the fabric. Plastic laundry bags can cause yellowing, staining and can weaken fibers. Color change is caused by BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) an anti-oxidant in the plastic bag. When BHT comes into contact with impurities in the air and with moisture it forms a yellow pigment that transfers to the fabric.
So here’s what you do instead. When you go to pick up your laundry, tell your local dry cleaner, “No plastic on my clothes, please.” He or she can take the plastic off and reuse it on other clothing. This act reduces the amount of plastic that is simply thrown away. It also saves your hard working laundry worker money because he or she doesn’t need to buy so many plastic bags! If you are not going to be wearing your laundered clothes for a while, consider taking a garment bag along with you when you drop off your laundry. There are even eco-friendly bags on the market that are designed precisely for picking up your dry cleaning. It’s the clothes equivalent of bringing a reusable bag to the grocery store or farmers market.
Want to encourage your laundry to be more eco-friendly? Download our Trash Compactors poster here and ask that your laundry post it in their shop. Download and print a copy of Shu’s sign and ask your dry cleaner to hang it in their window. Send us a photo of your laundry’s conversion and a picture of the folks who are making it happen and we will post to our website and Facebook page.
Together, we can make small steps to reduce our plastic footprint, one clean shirt at a time.