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Dry Cleaner FAQ | Learn More About GreenEarth Cleaning > Answers to the Questions Dry Cleaners Have

FAQs FOR DRY CLEANERS

  1. What is GreenEarth?
  2. Why is it better for the earth?
  3. Why is it better for clothes?
  4. Why is it better for people?
  5. Why is it better for dry cleaners?
  6. How many GreenEarth Affiliates are there?
  7. What is the regulatory outlook for dry cleaning and GreenEarth?
  8. Has there been much scientific testing and evaluation done on GreenEarth?
  9. I've heard that GreenEarth causes cancer, is that true?
  10. What are the facts of the bioassay research?
  11. I am seeing a lot of "organic" dry cleaning claims, is GreenEarth organic?
  12. I have noticed some dry cleaners claims to be biodegradable, is GreenEarth biodegradable?
  13. What other environmentally friendly practices do you support?
  14. How does GreenEarth compare to other alternative green cleaning methods like CO2, 100% wet cleaning, hydrocarbon and K4?
  15. Do customers really care about eco-friendly dry cleaning?
  16. I've heard that GreenEarth doesn't clean as well as perc, is that true?
  17. Does GreenEarth give me an edge with landlords?
  18. Why does GreenEarth charge a licensing fee?
  19. Will my operating costs go up or down with GreenEarth?
  20. What kind of sales increases can I expect with GreenEarth?
  21. Am I limited on what machines or supplies I can use with GreenEarth?
  22. Can I clean more of my suede and leather trimmed, vinyl and beaded garments if I switch to GreenEarth?
  23. What do I need to do to convert to GreenEarth?
  24. What exactly do I "get" for the licensing fee?
  25. Will I still have to pay for waste disposal?

What is GreenEarth?

GreenEarth Cleaning is the world's largest brand of environmentally friendly dry cleaning. The GreenEarth brand name refers to an exclusive dry cleaning process that replaces the petrochemical solvents traditionally used in dry cleaning with liquid silicone. Liquid silicone is an odorless, colorless solution that is an excellent carrier for detergents, has ideal properties for fabric care and is better for the environment. The GreenEarth Cleaning process is patented, and its name and logo are trademarked (there are no "generic" forms of GreenEarth). Any dry cleaning in silicones (in any percentage) is covered under GreenEarth's intellectual property.

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Why is it better for the earth?

The liquid silicone used in the GreenEarth process is a safe, natural byproduct of sand. Liquid silicone degrades into sand (SiO2) and trace amounts of water and carbon dioxide if spilled or released to the environment. It is recognized as safe for air, soil and water, not classified as a volatile organic compound (VOC) by the U.S. EPA, and doesn't contribute to smog formation. The EPA does not regulate silicone's use in dry cleaning or any of its many other applications.

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Why is it better for clothes?

Cleaning in GreenEarth silicone solution is different in two important ways. First, it has very low surface tension, and is very light in weight. Surface tension is what causes water to "bead up" on fabric. GreenEarth's low surface tension allows it to more effectively penetrate the fabric fibers and lubricate away the dirt particles. And because it weighs a lot less than perc, silicone cleans and rinses more gently, reducing wear and tear on fabrics. Second, liquid silicone is chemically inert, meaning it does not chemically react with textile fabric or dyes during the cleaning process. This minimizes abrasion to and/or swelling of fabric fibers, eliminates traditional issues with removal of dyes and optical brighteners, helps maintain the soft hand of garments, and prevents shrinkage. Result? A wider variety of clothes can be safely cleaned with GreenEarth. Delicate silks, suede and leather trims, beads, sequins, painted garments, specialty buttons and trims, couture garments, heirloom fabrics and other "problem" items are no problem at all. And, unlike petroleum based solvents like perc or hydrocarbon, liquid silicone is odorless, so there is no lingering chemical smell on clothes.

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Why is it better for people?

Traditional dry cleaning leaves a telltale chemical odor on clothes, but clothes cleaned in GreenEarth have absolutely no odor. Clothes are fresh and clean right out of the bag. Most people find petrochemical residue distasteful, but some people with asthma and skin sensitivities find it can make them sick. GreenEarth solution is non-allergenic and non-irritating; it is so safe you could rub it on your skin. In fact, you probably already do. That’s because GreenEarth solution is pure liquid silicone, the same base ingredient found in everyday shampoos, conditioners, skin lotions and antiperspirants.

GreenEarth is also beneficial to people who work in or live near dry cleaning stores, because they no longer have to worry about the dangers of exposure to perc (short for perchloroethylene, the petrochemical used by most cleaners). According to the EPA, over-exposure to perc can lead to headaches, dizziness, skin and eye irritation and other health effects, including an increased risk of cancer. Seniors, young children and pregnant women are especially vulnerable. People who work in or live near a GreenEarth dry cleaning store have absolutely nothing to worry about. GreenEarth’s cleaning system is safe to work with, safe to dispose of and safe to breathe. Employees especially love working in an odorless dry cleaning shop.

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Why is it better for dry cleaners?

The cost of a dry cleaning machine capable of running GreenEarth is similar to that of a perc machine today, so capitol equipment costs are not more expensive. Most dry cleaners operating with hydrocarbon can actually convert to GreenEarth without having to buy a new machine. For operators looking to replace their current machines, new, optimized GreenEarth machines are available at a cost savings over traditional class IIIA machines.  This is because GreenEarth's unique cleaning properties and safety profile make many of the "bells and whistles" machine add-ons unnecessary.  Last, it is easier for dry cleaners to operate profitably with GreenEarth. Why? Because it produces a noticeable difference that is highly marketable. Items cleaned in GreenEarth require less labor to process and finish. Costs for utilities, damage claims, permitting fees and disposal are also lower.

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How many GreenEarth Affiliates are there?

GreenEarth is available in over 40 countries around the world. In the United States alone more than 980 locations offer the GreenEarth Cleaning process.  Every new Martinizing franchise introduced since 2003 utilizes the GreenEarth technology; the Oxxo and Tide Dry Cleaners franchise locations also use GreenEarth exclusively. To find a GreenEarth affiliated dry cleaner, visit www.greenearthcleaning.com and click on the "Find a store” button in the upper right of the page.

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What is the regulatory outlook for dry cleaning in general and GreenEarth specifically?

Dry cleaning is under increasing regulatory scrutiny.  In February 2012, based on new scientific evidence, the EPA reclassified perc as a "likely" human carcinogen and concluded that chronic exposure to perc can cause harm to the nervous system, reproduction and development, kidney and liver disease, immune system and hematologic system at much lower levels than previously estimated.  The EPA's new assessment is a marked change from its previous designation, in place since 1988, of perc as an "intermediate between a probable and a possible human carcinogen" with non carcinogenic health hazard effects likely above a daily oral exposure Reference Dose (RfD) of 0.01 mg/kg-day (the safe level for RfD is now 0.006 mg/kg-day, much lower than previously determined).  The EPA's new assessment will be used to establish tougher standards for drinking water and hazardous air emissions to protect the public and set stricter clean up standards for contaminated sites.  The EPA also expects to initiate regulatory efforts to reclassify other VOCs where scientific evidence of carcinogenicity exists. The EPA has already taken several significant actions to reduce exposure to perc.   In 2006, it issued new regulations that banned new construction of perc dry cleaners in residential (co-located) buildings and instituted a phase out of perc use at co-located dry cleaners. 

At the state level, in 2008, California became the first state to ban both the use of perc and the purchase of new perc machines, a move widely regarded as the beginning of the end of perc solvents in the U.S.  Massachusetts, New York, Texas and Toronto all have perc bans under consideration.  If the industry continues to drag its feet when it comes to adopting "more environment friendly alternatives", regulators can be expected to grow increasingly concerned and increase legislative pressure.

The outlook for GreenEarth is excellent. In 2008, after an exhaustive 18 month review of scientific data around the health and human safety of GreenEarth’s D5 solution, California's Air Resources Board (CARB) affirmed GreenEarth as an acceptable dry cleaning solvent alternative and based on the available exposure information, the use of D5 in GreenEarth's patented dry cleaning process will not pose risk to the public living near businesses using D5. GreenEarth meets and exceeds all regulatory requirements and regulations in all states.

The outlook for GreenEarth is also excellent in Canada, where routine screening assessments of chemicals are conducted as part of a program to protect human health and the environment.  In 2008, Environment Canada officially announced that the D5 silicone used in the GreenEarth Cleaning system is not considered to be harmful to human health.  In February 2012, it declared that D5 silicone is not harmful to the environment.  This ruling was informed by an expert Board of Review (BOR) of independent scientific experts and renowned toxicologists who were appointed to undertake the review.  The Board of Review's formal assessment concluded that D5 silicone "does not pose a danger to the environment or its biological diversity". Furthermore, the Board concluded that "based on the information before it, the projected future uses of Siloxane D5 will not pose a danger to the environment or its biological diversity". To view the final report click here.

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Has there been much scientific testing and evaluation done on GreenEarth?

GreenEarth Cleaning is the only alternative solvent to perform and openly report extensive testing on the environmental and safety profile of its cleaning system. Over $30 million worth of independent testing and research has been done on D5 liquid silicone to confirm that there are no risks to public safety resulting from its use in all of its many applications, including dry cleaning. GreenEarth Cleaning also underwrote an independent, comprehensive 2002 IFI Fellowship Study which compared the GreenEarth system to the industry standard perc system. The IFI declared it to be "as effective as perc with no environmental concerns". Independent waste stream and air exposure testing confirmed that liquid silicone as used in daily dry cleaning operation exceeds all federal, state and local requirements for water and air safety.

Regulatory agency reviews of the available scientific data on D5 silicone also offer independent perspective on the health and human safety profile of the GreenEarth Cleaning process. Similar to the Illinois EPA’s 2006 assessment of D5 silicone as an alternative solvent, the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which instituted a ban of perc solvent in 2008, conducted an exhaustive 18-month review of all available data on D5 and affirmed that GreenEarth’s D5 silicone is an acceptable dry cleaning solvent alternative and based on the available exposure information, that the use of D5 in GreenEarth's patented dry cleaning process will not pose a risk to the public living near businesses using D5.  In addition, Environment Canada, the governing regulatory agency in Canada, in two separate rulings, declared that the D5 silicone used in the GreenEarth Cleaning system is not considered to be harmful to human health (2008) and that D5 is not considered harmful to the environment (2012).  An evaluation by the United Kingdom's UK Environment Agency also stated that "No risks are identified from the production and all uses of D5 for the air, water and the terrestrial compartments, nor for man exposed via the environment."

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I've heard that GreenEarth causes cancer, is that true?

Absolutely not. This rumor dates back to 2004-2005 news coverage around the release of a voluntary two-year bioassay study commissioned by Dow Corning, a manufacturer of D5. News reporters like to create controversy, and a preliminary finding of this study allowed them to do just that. Follow-up research was conducted that determined that D5 liquid silicone poses no risk to human health; however this research finding did not receive widespread news coverage—nor did subsequent scientific reviews by the Illinois EPA, California’s Air Resources Board (CARB), the government of Canada and the UK. Here is what matters:

  • The EPA does not recognize D5 silicone as a potential carcinogen or toxic air contaminant.
  • The EPA does not regulate the use of D5 in dry cleaning or any other application.
  • The California Air Resources Board conducted an extensive 18 month review of the health and safety research and ruled that use of D5 in dry cleaning does not pose an adverse health risk for the public.
  • The Government of Canada conducted a thorough review of all the available D5 data and determined that D5 is not considered to be harmful to human health.
  • An evaluation by the United Kingdom's UK Environment Agency concluded that D5 is safe for the air, water and soil as well as for humans.
  • More than 50 different studies on D5 demonstrate there is not a human health concern .
  • D5 is one of the most extensively studied materials in consumer applications.
  • D5 has been used safely for more than 40 years in many different applications.
  • D5 can be shipped without any D.O.T. "hazardous materials handling" requirements.

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What are the facts of the bioassay research?

As part of its commitment to the safe use of silicone, Dow Corning commissioned a two year Combined Chronic/Carcinogenicity Study on D5 silicone. What is important to understand is that the study was designed to test the potential effects of D5 as a chemical, not the safety of its use in the GreenEarth dry cleaning application. In the GreenEarth Cleaning process, silicone is kept inside the machine and continuously recycled using a closed loop system.

The bioassay research tested the effects of chronic inhalation of D5 at various levels of exposure for varying lengths of time, on male and female lab rats. A small but statistically significant number of female rats in the test cell exposed at the highest possible exposure level for the longest possible time developed precancerous indicators (they did not develop cancer). The rats affected in the study were the female rats exposed to the highest achievable vapor concentration of D5, 160 parts per million (ppm), six hours a day continuously for two years. By contrast, people who work in a dry cleaning plant are exposed at the lowest measurable vapor concentration of D5, less than 1 ppm on a time-weighted average during an eight-hour workday.

In order to better understand the test findings, follow up research was conducted by the Silicones Environmental, Health and Safety Council (SEHSC), the same group that conducted the original test. This research concluded that the effects observed in the original study were rat-specific and concluded that D5 does not pose a health risk to humans. This is because silicone is "read" by the female rat pituitary as dopamine, a naturally occurring chemical that can upset the balance of progesterone and estrogen and in turn lead to uterine tumors. The biological pathway that causes rats to react this way does not exist in humans, and scientific experts concluded that there is no risk to human health. This conclusion was supported by a number of scientific experts, including the Society of Toxicologists.

The safety of a food or chemical is often a matter of degree. Fluoride, salt and aspirin are all chemicals that can be toxic at high levels, but because their intended applications do not exceed safe limits, and because they provide benefits when used appropriately, we use them every day without concern.

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I am seeing a lot of "organic" dry cleaning claims, is GreenEarth organic?

No. And that is actually good. There is nothing green about organic dry cleaning methods. "Organic", as it relates to chemistry, refers to anything with a carbon backbone. Gasoline and asphalt are organic. Dry cleaners who market themselves this way are purposefully misleading the consumer.

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I have noticed some dry cleaners claims to be biodegradable, is GreenEarth biodegradable?

In describing dry cleaning solvents, the term biodegradable is very similar to "organic” in that it is frequently used in "green washing”. Just because a chemical biodegrades does not mean it biodegrades into non-hazardous substances.

GreenEarth is a closed loop system, it is continuously recycled within the machine. If it were to be released to the environment, because of its unique chemical and physical properties, it would rapidly and safely degrade into its three natural components of sand (SiO2), water and carbon dioxide through indirect photolysis. This is true irregardless of where it was deposited into the environment (e.g. air, soil or water) due to its relatively great vapor pressure and volatility, which causes it to migrate mainly into the air.

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What other environmental practices do you support?

We are very committed to sustainability. Not only do we advocate technologies to lower the dry cleaner’s carbon footprint of utility consumption, we also help our Affiliates source environmentally preferrable packaging.

GreenEarth operates in a closed loop system, meaning the dry cleaning solution is continually recycled within the machine. The fluid is kept clean through use of a filtration system. Many of our Affiliates use a new cold-filtration technology that reduces utility demand (steam, electricity, water) for solvent purification by over 85% from typical dry cleaning processes. It works by substituting natural clay as a filtration medium—the impurities are adsorbed by the clay medium—eliminating the requirement for constant distillation and the associated energy needed to boil the fluid and then return the vapor back into a liquid.

Plastic bags are a serious environmental concern—they take up space in landfills, threaten wildlife, and can last for hundreds of years. We offer our Affiliates access to oxo-degradable poly bags distributed by First Films in the U.S. The EcoMax degradable bags look and feel just like regular plastic bags but have a special composition that allows them to break down naturally within just two years. To maximize the environmental benefit of all oxo-degradable plastics, they should be recycled instead of thrown away.

Wire hangers may not get as much publicity as plastic, but they are also an environmental problem. Every year, Americans throw away 3.5 billion wire hangers and 5 billion plastic hangers. An excellent alternative is the cardboard EcoHanger®, made from 100% recycled paper and plastic. EcoHangers are manufactured in the U.S. in EPA-regulated factories and are 100% recyclable.

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How does GreenEarth compare to other alternative cleaning methods like CO2, 100% professional wet cleaning, hydrocarbon and K4?

CO2 and 100% wet cleaning have both recognized by regulators as very good choices environmentally, but less than one-third of one percent of dry cleaners utilize them. The problem for dry cleaners is that it is very difficult to make a living operating with either system exclusively. CO2 machines have proven so expensive to operate with they are no longer in production.  Professional wet cleaning requires more labor to produce and finish garments than traditional dry cleaning, and dry cleaners are reluctant to process with it exclusively.  We consider professional wet cleaning to be an excellent, environmentally non-toxic compliment to the GreenEarth dry cleaning method in any shop and encourage operators to utilize both methods.

Hydrocarbon solvent has been popular as an alternative because it is affordable and petroleum-based, so the industry is familiar with it. The concern about hydrocarbon today is that it is not as "green" as some people thought originally. While certainly a big improvement over perc, hydrocarbon is classified as a volatile organic compound (VOC), and is a likely contributor to smog formation. It is not approved as a SNAP material and would likely require clean up if spilled. Like perc, hydrocarbon is also listed by the EPA as a neurotoxin and skin and eye irritant for workers. On the plus side, most machines designed to use hydrocarbon solvent are also designed to use GreenEarth solution, so operators can convert from hydrocarbon to GreenEarth without purchasing a new machine.

K4 is a new alternative cleaning method that uses dibutoxymethane, also known as (formaldehyde dibutyl acetal) as the solvent.  Dibutoxymethane is a significant VOC with an MIR (minimal incremental reactivity) that is three times higher than petroleum solvents using in dry cleaning, casting a doubt on the validity of their "green" marketing claims.  The K4 system requires a specific Class IIIA machine configuration to manage concerns with the strong odor characteristic of this chemical as well as its stability; without the specific modifications, safeguards and security features that have been developed for the K4 system, operation with this solvent not be unsafe.  K4 has a flash point of 143 degrees F and a KBV of 75; its aggressive chemistry profile places it closer to perc (90 KBV) than hydrocarbon (27 KBV).

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Do customers really care about "green" dry cleaning?

Consumers today are increasingly concerned about the environment and the business practices of companies with which they do business. Demand for "green" products and services has risen dramatically, in fact, 49% of consumers feel that it is "important for companies to not just be profitable, but to be mindful of their impact on the environment and society," according to a recent study done by the National Marketing Institute.

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I've heard that GreenEarth doesn't clean as well as perc, is that true?

No. GreenEarth solution has different chemical properties than perc, so it interacts differently with detergents, additives and fabrics. When GreenEarth was first introduced, the process was unfamiliar, detergency had not yet been optimized to work with it, and cleaning results did vary. Water-soluble stains were a particular problem. With proper training on how to process garments in GreenEarth, and the advent of second, third and even fourth generation detergent additives developed with the help of industry partners, cleaning results, including removal of water-soluble stains, are consistently excellent. An independent evaluation of alternative solvents by the IFI in 2007 rated GreenEarth as "excellent" in the categories of cleaning and ability to handle a variety of fabrics and trims.

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Does GreenEarth give me an edge with landlords?

Yes. GreenEarth's non-toxic, non-hazardous rating means no environmental liability issues. This allows operators to renew leases at current locations and obtain leases at locations that previously wouldn't allow dry cleaners.  Kimko has pre-approved GreenEarth for all of its locations; Regency Centers and Edens also permit GreenEarth dry cleaners.  Publix grocery stores has an exception in its "no dry cleaner" restriction to specifically allow GreenEarth dry cleaners. 

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Why does GreenEarth charge a licensing fee?

The GreenEarth Cleaning system is a patented process, and our name and logo are trademarked, so it is necessary to charge a licensing fee for our patents and trademarks. In return, we provide environmental, operational, technical and marketing advantages that deliver an outstanding return on that investment. Protecting the exclusivity of our brand and building a solid network of quality cleaners helps protect our Affiliates and the investment they make in GreenEarth.

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Will my operating costs go up or down with GreenEarth?

Down. GreenEarth is gentler, with a much softer fabric hand and fewer wrinkles, so finishing and special handling costs will go down, as will expenses for damage claims. Operating expenses also go down in a number of ways. First, there is significantly less need to classify loads by color, which reduces the number of loads and the utility and supply costs to run them. Second, machines can be configured to use less energy (e.g. adding bleaching clay filtration), significantly lowering your utility costs and your carbon footprint. Lastly, waste hauling costs are significantly lower and there is no need for environmental insurance.

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What kind of sales increases can I expect with GreenEarth?

Some Affiliates have reported initial increases in sales as high as 50-70%. While results like this are not the norm, Affiliates who routinely market their difference report increases in net sales in the 10-25% range.

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Am I limited on what machines or supplies I can use with GreenEarth?

No. GreenEarth solvent is available from a variety of sources and can be used in a variety of machines with a variety of detergents and spotting agents.  For GreenEarth Affiliates using the optimized ACF GreenEarth Cleaning method, new lower cost machines have been developed and are are available for lease or purchase.  These machines average 50-85% less water, steam and electricity consumption than perc machines using distillation. 

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Can I clean more of my suede and leather trimmed, vinyl and beaded garments if I switch to GreenEarth?

Yes. The range of fabrics and trim combinations that can be successfully processed in GreenEarth exceeds those of all other solvents.

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What do I need to do to convert to GreenEarth?

The first step will be to request an information booklet, either by phone (toll-free 877-926-0895) or online. Next you will want to learn about any local regulations you would need to comply with and assess your equipment and supply needs. GreenEarth has done extensive testing and has pre-approved a number of different machines, detergents and spotting agents, to make selection of a quality system easier. The next step is to talk. We won’t be happy, and neither will you, if we don’t share the same values and commitment to operational excellence. Partnering with like-minded business owners who put customers, quality and environmental responsibility first helps protect your investment and ours. We can also discuss licensing options in your territory. The final step is to sign a letter of understanding, making your official membership application official. Once you join as an Affiliate, you will receive a membership kit and we will begin working with you to make sure your installation and conversion go smoothly.

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What exactly do I "get" for the licensing fee?

In addition to the right to use GreenEarth's patented process and trademarks, your license fee entitles you to ongoing operational, technical and marketing support. The marketing advantages of GreenEarth include a wide range of professionally developed, customizable marketing materials, access to top quality direct mail fulfillment services, a website that builds a quality image and a "find a store" feature that directs customers to Affiliate store locations 24/7. As a GreenEarth Affiliate, you will also be part of a worldwide network of quality cleaners who share information, ideas and best practices.

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Will I still have to pay for waste disposal?

Most of our Affiliates have waste disposed as a non-hazardous waste product. The fee ranges from $0 to 60% of the cost of hazardous waste disposal.

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