Wet Cleaning: The Adoption of New Technology in California Dry Cleaning
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Perchloroethylene (perc) is a hazardous air pollutant regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency under several laws including the Toxic Substances Control Act, The Clean Air Act, The Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. Perc is traditionally used in the dry cleaning process. In order to phase out the use of the chemical the California Air Resources Board banned the purchase of new perc dry cleaning machines in 2008. Once a perc machine is 15 years old it must be retired. This means that all perc dry cleaning will be phased out by 2023. While wet cleaning is the most environmentally friendly alternative to perc it is becoming clear that the most common alternative chosen by dry cleaners, to replace their perc machines, is a petroleum based solvent. Data was collected on all the dry cleaners in California, from the 35 Air Quality Management and Air Pollution Control Districts in the state. Many businesses are choosing to switch to petroleum while many dry cleaners have not yet retired their perc machines. This paper attempts to answer the question; what characteristics of a dry cleaner lead to the adoption of the wet cleaning technology? In particular, do demographic characteristics of the neighborhood or the owner of the dry cleaning business have any impact on the choice of cleaning technology? This has important policy implications as incentives are being put into place to make wet cleaning a more commonly chosen alternative.