DRY cleaning and laundry are almost synonymous with the use of polythene clothes bags – but Dorset’s leading player in the industry is planning to reduce single use plastic by 90 per cent.

The boss of Barker – the largest laundry service in the UK and a leading specialist dry cleaner – says the sector has been a “slave” to plastic.

But the business is making “significant investment” in eliminating most single use plastic.

The Wallisdown-headquartered company says it has converted nearly all its domestic laundry customers to using long-lasting laundry boxes over the past two years.

It has introduced a new initiative in its dry cleaning division, initially being rolled out in a trial at its Sherborne branch.

It includes the options to collect dry cleaning in a new, reusable garment cover; have no cover at all; or pay 15 pence for polythene packaging. Proceeds from the polythene charge will go to the business’s chosen good cause, MyTime Charity for Young Carers.

Barker managing director Matthew Barker said: “When packaging represents such a large and important part of our final product, with the requirements for hygiene and protection from damage, we have been slaves to the most viable and efficient form of packaging – plastic.

“As a business, by far and away the largest use of plastic is in our dry cleaning division. Currently, all dry cleaning that leaves our premises is draped in protective polythene.

“We are determined to ultimately eliminate this practice, which has driven us to launch this new, reusable garment cover initiative.

“We are immensely proud that Barker are the first dry cleaning company nationally to work towards the eradication of plastic packaging and would urge our customers to support us in our efforts. If the Sherborne trial is successful we hope to extend the initiative to all of our branches by the end of the year. Branches include Ashley Cross, Poole, Ferndown and Bournemouth.”

He added: “With our customers’ help and support we hope we can achieve our ambitious goal of reducing ‘single use’ plastic by 90 per cent and in doing so start to put pressure on the rest of the industry to follow suit.

“This is requiring a significant investment from the business in the initial stages but I believe it is the right course of action.

“We will never lose plastic – it is probably one of the most effective wrappers ever invented – but the way in which we use it and handle it will make all the difference to the future of our planet.”

Barker, whose history goes back to 1861, is a fabric care and manufacturing business whose services range from laundry to shirt making.

It is a global leader in the supply of starched dress wear to the legal profession and the film, TV and theatre industry. Its work can be seen in Downton Abbey, Peaky Blinders and Mr Selfridge.