How can we reduce damage to the environment by cleaning with sustainable and green chemicals?

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Using sustainable and green chemicals is better for people's health and less harmful to the environment. In an ideal world it should be easy to see which products are toxic and which are better for people and the environment. In the real world, however, assessing cleaning products is not always easy. The reason and necessity of disinfection has of course become very clear and in this article we are going to look at how we can take the environment into account by disinfecting with sustainable and green chemicals.

What is Green Chemistry?

People are aware of the fact that our raw materials may run out and efforts are being made to develop more sustainable products. These products are processed as sustainably as possible and used sparingly. The primary goal of green chemistry is to reduce the chemical related impact on human health and the second important point is to eliminate or prevent the pollution of the environment through the dedicated and sustainable prevention program. For green chemistry, twelve principles have been established that are generally accepted in all industries:

  1. Prevention: Formation of waste should be avoided as much as possible.
  2. Atomic Economy: The end product contains as many atoms as possible of the substances used in the process, so use the raw materials as efficiently as possible.
  3. Less harmful chemical production methods: Where possible, design production methods that harm people and the environment as little as possible.
  4. Develop less harmful chemicals: When developing products, make sure they do what they are supposed to do, with the least possible damage to people and the environment.
  5. Safer solvents: Avoid the use of solvents during production as much as possible.
  6. Energy-efficient design: Decrease the energy required to carry out a reaction; this with a view to reducing costs and environmental damage. If possible, processes should be carried out at relatively low temperatures and low pressures (preferably at normal pressure). Try to use energy that is generated by a process.
  7. Use of renewable raw materials: Raw materials must be renewable as much as possible.
  8. Responses in few steps: Avoid many steps in a reaction, because this also means that more starting materials are needed and therefore more pollution is produced.
  9. Catalysis: Catalysed reactions are more efficient than non-catalysed reactions.
  10. Design with a view to demolition: Design chemical products that, when decomposed, produce substances that are non-toxic and do not accumulate in the environment.
  11. Interim analysis with a view to prevention of environmental pollution: Design and use analytical methods that ensure that environmentally polluting (by) products are detected as soon as they are released.
  12. Less risky chemistry: Choose the substances in a chemical process in such a way that the risk of chemical accidents is as small as possible. Work on fire and explosion prevention.

Green Chemistry in cleaning

The amount of companies that are actively trying to become more eco-friendly is still rising, which is not surprising considering the positive impact it has on the environment and the companies themselves.

Green chemistry is an interesting view on reducing the use of hazardous and harmful substances, recycling waste, as well as lowering energy consumption. The 12 principles for green chemistry form the basis for the development of green products and they also apply to the cleaning and hygiene industry. Some of these principles are already being applied and already show their positive impact on the environment.

Waste prevention

Waste management is a key area that businesses need to focus on in their quest to become more sustainable. Just because you don’t have to see the waste your business creates doesn’t mean it isn’t contributing to a major global issue. It’s a problem that companies are desperately trying to solve, but the main obstacle could be their approach to the situation.

Much of the focus with waste is on what to do with it once you’ve used it. Can it be recycled or is there some way to mitigate its impact? It’s great that businesses are working out how to reduce their waste; however, a more effective method for becoming a zero-waste company would be to prevent it completely.

This process starts the with the formulation, or better, the reformulation of the full line of professional cleaning products to eliminate the chemical concern and introduce new chemicals naturally without any compromises. So basically, summarise the difference between traditional products and sustainable green products. Traditional products are composed by raw materials that are derived from oil and other not reusable sources that become waste at the end of the life cycle. Sustainable products are composed using reusable materials and thanks to the use of renewable sources, at the end of their life cycle these products become technical nutrients rather than waste.

Less harmful chemical production methods

Introduce a new approach to chemical risk management to bring exposure to acceptable levels. Take Sutter Industries, for example, who have developed a new approach to avoid any possible risk to human health by using the threshold for trees. This value is even lower than the chemical exposure threshold in water set by the regulations. This new approach caused nickel and chromium to disappear completely from the process.

All chemicals used in the old process required personnel to wear classified protective equipment. The transition to sustainable products eliminates the need for this personal protection and eliminates the need to implement special safety procedures. And because the products do not contain harmful chemicals, they are biodegradable. This makes them harmless to the environment. This is not the case with traditional cleaning products. The chemicals contained in it end up in the environment, for example when the soap is thrown away outside or flushed down the toilet.

Energy-efficient design

Another important point is energy efficiency. Normally, traditional products are made from inexpensive components that must be used. Take water, for example, many products still have a large amount of water to clean a surface. Sustainable products are designed to produce energy efficiently throughout their life cycle, as the concentration is higher compared to traditional products. Sustainable laundry products no longer need to be rinsed with an excessive use of water. This not only saves water, but also requires less energy from the equipment to be used.

Design with a view to demolition

The use of primary (often fossil) raw materials and energy exerts pressure on the environment. The disposal of plastic is accompanied by CO2 emissions and because, unfortunately, a majority of the plastic is not (yet) recycled, valuable raw materials are lost. In addition, plastic litter still ends up in the environment. And due to the versatile properties of plastic, the material is found in almost all sectors, including the cleaning sector.

One of the most discussed applications of plastic in the cleaning and hygiene sector is the packaging of cleaning products and detergent manufacturers are working on solutions to promote the sustainable use of plastic. It is important to design the packaging so it can be reused, recycled or composted which will lead to less plastic pollution. Think of packaging with at least part of the packaging consisting of recycled material, refillable packaging or water-soluble packaging.

Ecolabelling set to become the difference

Pushing to make your business more sustainable can seem tough. Sometimes it feels like you’re being asked to completely upend everything that made you successful in the first place, but it doesn’t have to be like that. You just need to explore your options for delivering effective yet sustainable cleaning and hygiene services.

A key focus area within sustainability for the industry will be ecolabelling. Many companies are rushing to promote products that can claim to be environmentally friendly. There’s a huge market developing for this type of solution, but businesses are still unsure of how to identify the options that’ll have the most impact.

Ecolabelling has emerged as an essential way for companies to differentiate between the products with the backing of industry experts and those that don’t. For vendors, ecolabelling will quickly become an almost mandatory route to market for professional cleaning and hygiene solutions – especially when it comes to the area of cleaning chemicals.

Learn more about Ecolabels


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