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On one side of the argument, evangelists of these types of schemes say they help manufacturers create safer professional cleaning products and help businesses make better and more informed purchasing decisions; on the other side many manufacturers argue that they take a narrow view of product safety that ignores the broader environmental sustainability goals such as renewable-ingredient content and reduced energy consumption.

Eco-labelling allows certain chemical firms to view labels as a point of differentiation in what is an exceptionally competitive market. But the burning question is whether these chemicals are really so different from the so-called ‘conventional’ cleaning products that don’t make eco-label claims and if so, do people really care that much?

properly certified by an independent organisation’. Wow – form an orderly queue everyone.

There is more, because the EU Eco- Label scheme on chemicals will:

• Make your products stand out against your competitors.

• Add real value to your business credentials and company image.

• Help boost your sales figures and minimise your costs.

• Reduce the amount of total chemicals.

• Limit substances harmful to the aquatic environment.

• Increase biodegradability. • Use less packaging. • Provide an efficient wash.

• Provide reliable consumer information.

FOR AND AGAINST Have we not heard all this before? Does the reputable chemical manufacturer who has not paid the registration fees or participated in the accreditation process for Eco-Label not do these things anyway?

You only have to walk down the aisle of any supermarket and it is clear that although there is a small proportion of aisle space dedicated to ‘green’ products, most major cleaning products don’t carry eco-labels at all and make little mention of their environmental impact. This does not mean the manufacturers are paying scant regard to this area; it’s just an intrinsic part of the product, not a special feature.

In the professional cleaning market, many companies pay lip service to eco-labelling or ‘enviro-branding’ where they may have a limited range on their books so that they have a green option ‘to go to’ if required, but we doubt if five-year business plans are being built around specific green brands. These environmental features are simply being woven into existing brand values.

So are long-standing, reputable professional cleaning chemical manufacturers hiding their heads in the sand? The answer is simple – no. Just because a chemical carries an eco-label does not mean it is more sustainable than a well-established, high volume ‘traditional’ product that does not.

THE PRODUCT USE LIFE CYCLE Surely what is weightier in the argument is the environmental impact of a product over its entire life cycle.

Think of dishwashing and laundry for example, where some companies have looked to replace a long established core ingredient EDTA with MGDA as a better (and more expensive) environmental alternative, when arguably the biggest environmental impact of the dish wash process is the energy used when heating water (to 90°C in the dish wash rinse cycle). So, let us look at the move to low temperature dishwashers:


DISHWASHERS: • Use heat to disinfect dishes and glassware,

• Use slightly more energy than a low temperature dishwasher,

• Do not require high doses of chemicals,

• Usually wash and dry dishes faster.

LOW TEMPERATURE DISHWASHERS: • Uses chemical to sanitise dishes and glassware,

• Are not as effective at removing grease,

• Are more energy efficient than high temperature models; however, they use more water and deposit more chemicals into drainage systems,

• Require more chemicals.

So would it not be better to look at lowering energy, water, and waste/over consumption? Switching to perceived ‘safer’ ingredients may just be shifting environmental impacts to other parts of the overall process.

It is critical that professional consumers understand that ingredients need to be assessed on the basis of their potential hazard rather than the actual risk of using them in small quantities in cleaning products. We have mentioned previously that any chemical can be safe or unsafe – it all depends on the concentration present and how the chemical is used.

Read more of Max’s musings at the RP Adam blog here. Tomorrow’s Cleaning February 2016 | 31

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