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Environment industries archive


Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Atlas Dry Cleaners
Cleaner Production
- Energy Efficiency and Waste Minimisation

Atlas Dry Cleaners, a leading firm in Perth, is committed to environmental best practice. It has been achieving business benefits for itself by pursuing cleaner production initiatives and it has been encouraging improvements by the industry. Through pipe lagging alone it has reduced its daily gas use by 30% and electricity use by 11%. It has been investigating a PERC re-use process which would reduce its cleaning residue waste volume by 70% and save it $3500 a year.


Atlas Dry Cleaners is a family business operating in Perth for over 30 years. It provides high quality dry cleaning of domestic and commercial goods and mainly serves the Perth CBD. It specialises in cleaning and maintaining sensitive fabrics such as wedding gowns, ball and evening gowns, hats, accessories and specialist costumes and garments. Atlas serves some of Perth's highest profile organisations including The West Coast Eagles Football Club, The West Australian Opera Company, The Central Police Department and The Metropolitan Fire Brigade. With 16 staff, its cleaning operations are carried out at premises in East Perth and, as well as a retail service, it operates a collection service using 5 vans. It cleans approximately 5000 garments each week, largely through dry cleaning although the share of garments being wet-cleaned is increasing.

Over the past 5 years Atlas has invested heavily in state-of-the art cleaning equipment and other plant at its premises as part of its commitment to quality, efficiency and environmental improvement.

Atlas is committed to high standards of environmental performance and has an environmental policy covering all of its main environmental impacts. It has developed and implemented procedures for compliance with dry cleaning industry codes for plant and the safe handling of perchloroethylene (PERC), and with EPA requirements. It actively encourages improvement by other firms. Atlas participated as one of the core members of the inaugural Cleaner Production Club for Dry Cleaners, facilitated by the Centre of Excellence in Cleaner Production, Curtin University of Technology, and the Dry Cleaning Institute of Australia (WA Branch).

The Process

Atlas's main equipment includes the following:

For dry cleaning the process is as follows:

For the wet cleaning process the steps are basically the same as for dry cleaning except that water is used (using biodegradeable soaps) instead of solvent. The drying and finishing process uses a 3-dimensional machine which does not rely on the use of hot irons.

Liquid waste from the still separates into contact water (from humidity, perspiration, spotting and absorbed in the garments) and a heavier layer containing greases, fats, various solid materials, and solvent. The water is drained to sewer after processing through an activated carbon filter and the heavier layer of liquid waste has been traditionally drummed and taken away for landfill by a waste contractor.

Other wastes are scrapings from the still sides, contaminated powder from the powder filters and solids from the non-powder filters. These wastes are also drummed as solid wastes and removed by a licensed special waste contractor. General waste includes packaging and office material.

Donini dry cleaning machines

Fifth generation Donini machines at Atlas - note the lagged pipes

Cleaner Production Initiatives

Cleaner production initiatives have been pursued in reducing PERC and energy consumption through technology modification, good housekeeping and on-site recycling

PERC emissions minimisation

PERC emissions are minimised by:

Rear view of Donini machine

Rear view of a Donini machine - PERC recirculation still to the right

Energy efficiency

Besides its investment in cleaning equipment Atlas has, over the past 5 years, invested in various energy efficiency improvements including:

Advantages of the process

Project Cost $ Environmental benefit Financial benefit
Minimising door opening   Reduced emissions and use Difficult to quantify
Regular raking and scraping of  still sides   Reduce PERC use and waste generation Difficult to quantify
Installing  bund areas   Reduce risk of spills Difficult to quantify
Preventive maintenance and leak detector   Reduced risk of leaks Difficult to quantify
Carbon filter for contact water $1500 plus new carbon $240pa Avoidance of solvent in trade effluent discharge  
Pipe lagging     Daily cost savings:
Gas $126 to $89
Electricity  $63 to $56

The benefits in business efficiency and quality are difficult to quantify. The investment in new equipment and plant has expanded production capacity and enhanced competitiveness. Improved working conditions thermally and in lighting have improved productivity and quality - less sweat on garments has reduced the need for re-cleaning, while improved lighting has allowed better visual inspection and fewer complaints.

Cleaner Production incentives

The initiatives have been driven by Atlas' commitment to business efficiency, quality and environmental improvement.


For some of the initiatives there has been no significant barrier. For the major process improvements the main barrier was the $0.5m cost - whether to spend the money on improving the business or to continue 'plugging holes' in the old, sub-standard equipment forming part of the original business acquisition. The decision was made to spend the money.

Further Developments

Atlas has been trialing a novel solution to the problem of generating around 130 litres a month of liquid waste, disposed of at cost of around $390a month. It has found that by centrifugal separation of the still bottom, a PERC fraction resulted which could be re-used via the still. The residue fraction contains dirt, water, filter powder and grease. Tests on this residue by Curtin University suggest that it would not be classed as a controlled waste. Atlas estimates that this option would enable it to cut its waste volume by 70% and potentially save $3500 a year. This option will be further investigated.


Wally Bullo
Managing Director
Atlas Dry Cleaners
174 Claisbrook Rd
Perth WA 6000
Ph: 61 8 9328 8900
Fax: 61 8 9328 4940
Date of implementation: 1995-2001.
Date of further initiatives: Ongoing.
Case study prepared: June 2001 by Centre of Excellence in Cleaner Production, Curtin University of Technology.
Date last modified: July 2001.