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TRSA Canadian Roundtable discusses current issues

(Report from TRSA)

A group of 30-plus Canadian laundry operators and supplier partner executives discussed a range of regulatory concerns affecting the industry during TRSA’s Canadian CEO/Executive Roundtable on May 16.

TRSA President and CEO Joseph Ricci kicked off the 90-minute online session by welcoming Canadian colleagues and inviting them to participate in an open dialogue on issues of concern such as wastewater-compliance rules and the need to promote the use of reusable healthcare personal protective equipment (PPE) in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Next, TRSA’s Vice President of Government Relations Kevin Schwalb offered a quick overview of regulatory issues now pending before the U.S. federal government and among various states. Example include:

Pending restrictions on fleets using conventional fuels: California recently finalized rules calling on companies to implement 100% zero-emission commercial vehicles by 2035, a dozen years from now. Some 14 other states, including New York, Maryland and Colorado are following suit, modeling their restrictions on California’s rules. Canada’s moving in a similar direction – if not quite as aggressively – to mandate zero-emission vehicles. Click here for details. Schwalb noted that the federal or state governments could postpone the compliance deadlines but that’s not guaranteed.

PFAS in wastewater: The U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and various states, such as Michigan, are implementing restrictions on wastewater containing per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that officials believe are linked to health problems in people. Officials have singled out a minute number of the roughly 5,000 PFAS compounds, such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) for strict limits.

The EPA wants to dramatically reduce the use of these “forever chemicals” that don’t break down in nature and are present in manufactured goods such as isolation gowns and fire-resistant clothing. Planned limits would allow only 4 parts per trillion of PFAS in wastewater, an amount so miniscule that it’s almost undetectable, Schwalb said.

Microplastic pollution: State officials in California are considering requiring all commercial and consumer washing machinery to include costly filtering equipment to eliminate plastic waste.

For their part, the Canadian operators and suppliers in attendance said they’re facing regulatory issues at least as challenging and in some cases, more so than those in the U.S. Tim Topornicki, president of Topper Linen Supply, Toronto, noted that he recently installed a dissolved air floatation system to remove excess oil and greases in wastewater prior to discharging it. The company also must pay carbon taxes on fossil fuels, a fee not yet widely imposed in the U.S.

Another operator, Janette Millar, COO of Quintex Services Ltd., Winnipeg, noted that her company installed an expensive reverse-osmosis system several years ago to keep pace with the area’s rigorous wastewater-compliance requirements.

On the healthcare front, Schwalb noted that TRSA is working both at the federal level and in various states to encourage the use of more sustainable reusable iso gowns and to discourage the home washing of scrubs and other healthcare workwear garments due to hygiene concerns. Schwalb noted that widespread shortages of disposables arose during the COVID-19 pandemic, as demand spiked and manufacturers – based mainly in East Asia – couldn’t keep pace with hospitals’ requirements.

TRSA laundry operators stepped up to the challenge with reusable iso gowns that could be laundered and reused. Now, with the pandemic largely over, many hospitals are reverting to disposable PPE, thus leaving themselves vulnerable to future shortages should another pandemic arise. In response, Schwalb is leading an effort with members of Congress to send a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra asking him to direct hospitals to maintain a 50-50 balance of reusable vs. disposable PPE to protect patients and healthcare staff. The draft letter also asks Becerra to have the agency conduct a study of the benefits of reusable healthcare PPE.

As for outreach at the state level, a bill recently introduced in New York with TRSA’s active support, would mandate that hospitals maintain a 50-50 mix of reusable vs. disposable PPE.

Canada faced a similar crisis of shortages of disposable gowns when demand spiked during the pandemic. As in the U.S., Canadian commercial and central laundries helped fill the gap with reusable gowns. Randy Bartsch, chair and chief executive of Ecotex Healthcare Linen Service, a Vancouver-based group of laundries, said that both the Canadian federal government, along with various provinces, through a special Pandemic Emergency PPE provisions order, procured millions of disposable gowns during the pandemic.

The problem is many arrived too late to aid in the pandemic response. In Ontario, as an example, they now have more than 46 million surplus gowns in storage, many that do not meet healthcare specs. These emergency PPE items represent a “sunk” cost to the government, and their shelf life is limited, said Bartsch, who is also vice chair of TRSA. Healthcare in Canada operates on a “universal access” model and is funded by government through a “single payer” system.

The federal government apportions tax dollars to each province to fund the full spectrum of healthcare provided by hospitals and community health facilities. While reusable gowns are used in Canada more extensively than in the U.S., laundry operators see pressure on hospitals to use up the disposable stock before its expiration date, thus discouraging replenishment of reusable stock.

Schwalb said TRSA would be happy to assist Canadian operators in their advocacy efforts regarding healthcare, environmental and other issues. Ricci closed the online program by noting that TRSA and Canadian operators and suppliers will have an opportunity to extend their discussions of policy and other business issues this fall at TRSA’s Canadian Production Summit & Tours. Scheduled for Oct. 4-5 in Toronto, the program will feature expert speakers and networking opportunities, as well as tours of technically advanced plants. Ricci encouraged anyone with suggestions for the TRSA event in Toronto to contact him at

DLI Advanced Course #382 graduates multinational class

Front row (left to right):
Isaiah M. Roldan, Wedding Gown Preservation Co., Endicott, NY; Aryani Mohamad Hasseri, Noble Medtech Sdn Bhd, Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia; Ofelia Yessenia Medina, Dry Clean Super Center, Collierville, TN; Courtnie Beverly, Holiday Cleaners, LLC., Demopolis, AL; Judith Ordonez, Martinizing of Benbrook, Fort Worth, TX.
Back row (l-r):
Abang Ismawi Abang Ali, Noble Medtech Sdn Bhd, Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia; Michael Pulliam, Mi Cleaners, Lanham, MD; Jimmy Lam, Strathfield Dry Cleaners, Strathfield South, New South Wales, Australia; Brittany Fuhrman, Wedding Gown Preservation Co., Endicott, NY; Tony Bettinazzi, CaaStle, Groveport, OH; Gogul Nalainathan, North York, Canada.

Mark Villareal, former Navy diver, educator, and real estate business owner, entered the cleaning business when he bought a drop store in Houston, Texas, two years ago. He found success with the drop store and expanded by adding a full plant to his Midtown Cleaners & Tailors operation in August 2022. “I was able to turn [the drop store] around but when it came to the plant, I realized I was walking into a whole new solar system of information for me and I felt really intimidated.” He encountered a problem with a stain and contacted the Stain Wizard [A.L. Wilson’s Jeff Schwartz], who referred him to the Southwestern Drycleaning Association, who referred him to DLI and its School of Drycleaning Technology.

He enrolled in DLI’s Spring 2023 Introduction to Drycleaning Course calling it “very eye-opening.” He said, “There are two facets that I really enjoy. The first part is collaborating with fellows from the industry. We have all sorts in the class,” he said. “I happen to be an owner, we have general managers, pressers, so it allows me to get a different perspective from different businesses from around the country and how they’re doing their jobs individually and how they’re managing their plants in these different areas,” he said.

“The second, probably the most valuable part of being here, is the hands-on experience,” Villareal said. “Everybody learns differently. For me, I’ve always been a book learner. Give me a book, I’ll memorize it, take a test, no problem. But this is dry cleaning. This is hands-on. So, when we go back to ‘The Lab’, probably the best-looking dry cleaning plant you could find, and you stand in front of that spotting board, that’s when things become real,” he said.

“We have an amazing instructor, Brian Johnson who is great in the classroom, very informative, but when he gets behind the spotting board, you can tell he’s at home,” he said. “That level of confidence allows me confidence to go about it. If you’re going to mess up, this is the place to do it. That type of practical application is the most valuable aspect of the course.”

Ryan Brown with Dublin Cleaners, a third-generation cleaning business in Columbus, Ohio, said he attended DLI’s course because he’s been working in the industry for 12 years. “Everything I did was front of the house: customer service, sales, big into the technology side but I really knew nothing about how our product is created,” he said. “I knew nothing about pressing, the dry cleaning, the chemicals, fabrics. It’s crazy – 12 or 13 years go by and how much education there is still to be learned,” he said. “Attending this DLI class helps me train my customer service reps, my drivers, the customers on things I probably wouldn’t have known. Now, with this class I’m educated even more.”

“Our CEO and President, Brian Butler, empowers our company to become educated. He really wants to have us be trained so we can train our employees and our employees can train our customers,” Brown said. “Between doing this and other educational seminars, we can be the best we can be.”

“Day One was probably a bit overwhelming, learning about things I just didn’t understand on the chemical side,” Brown said, noting the course’s volume of information. “For me, I loved the hands-on training. Being on a utility press or a hot head, being on a spotting board and understanding how to actually get a stain out of a garment is amazing. The hands-on approach in a class like this is honestly priceless.”


Kreussler, Inc. and the Ohio Fabricare Association extended scholarships to several students in DLI’s 382nd General Drycleaning Course.

Fabricare Canada offers the Tom Kimmel Scholarship to DLI once a year, for either the beginning or advanced course. Open to Canadians who speak English and work in a dry cleaning plant. To apply, send an email of why you’d like to take the course to

Nalini Ramki celebrates her 2nd Anniversary at the helm of Suede Master Leather Cleaners in Toronto

Nalini Ramki (center, red shirt) and her team celebrating.

Taking a leap of faith can be daunting, especially when it comes to purchasing a business during a pandemic. For Nalini Ramki, it was a risk worth taking when she purchased Suede Master Leather Cleaners in April 2021. “You only have one life to live” was the motto that fueled Nalini’s drive and passion. Along with a clear vision for business development, she brought a new energy and leadership style as the cornerstone for growth.

Nalini shared, “It has taken sweat, tears, and sleepless nights to get to the second anniversary! We got here in one piece and smiling – we are patting ourselves on the back for it!”

Over the past two years, Nalini has steadily increased services and forged lasting relationships with dry cleaners across Canada and New York State. As their name suggests, they are leather, suede, and fur garment care experts. Suede Master also describes itself as the largest bridal-wear cleaner in Canada, taking care of each wedding gown no matter the intricacy. They also clean luxury garments and specialty rugs.

In 2002, Suede Master was one of the first in Canada to utilize the proprietary silicone-based system. In 2021 when Nalini purchased Suedemaster she was committed to converting the dry cleaning operation to 100% GreenEarth. Today, she is happy to report the conversion is complete.