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Do traditional cleaning products made from petrochemicals meet the demands of FM’s ESG goals?

By Georgia Jordan, Content Writer at Biological Preparations

Responding to the widespread growth of the environmental movement, many cleaning products are adopting visible eco-initiatives like minimising plastic waste and addressing transport-related Scope 3 emissions. While monitoring transportation is important in tackling the carbon crisis, gaining insight into a product lifecycle is crucial for informed decision-making, towards achieving environmental targets.

Because traditional cleaning products use ingredients sourced from petrochemicals, which begin their lives being mined to then be converted into cleaning chemicals like formaldehyde, many commonly used cleaning products retain a large carbon footprint.

When thinking of chemical pollution in our water, most envisage multi-billion-dollar corporations dumping barrels of chemicals into our waters. In reality, post-use of petrochemical cleaning products also has detrimental effects on aquatic life. After use, these chemicals enter our water cycle adding to the aquatic toxicity crisis. For example, phosphates in our waters promote the growth of algae, which deprives that area of oxygen, creating aquatic dead zones.

In recent years, clean, sanitised spaces have been crucial for public health. However, the focus on cleanliness must consider the impact these cleaning products have on the user’s health. A 2018 study revealed that long-term inhalation of traditional cleaning products emulates the respiratory impact of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. But there are many more health implications associated with petrochemicals and its user:

  • 2-Butoxyethanol: Can affect the health of red blood cells.
  • Phthalates: Impact reproductive function, and cause DNA damage.
  • Parabens: Affects breasts, hormones, and reproductive areas.
  • Chlorine Bleach: A potent antimicrobial and respiratory irritant.

Ensuring the safe use of petrochemicals in the workplace requires comprehensive user understanding and proper PPE provision. This can be challenging for FMs to maintain consistent safety standards amid an industry with high staff turnovers and language barriers that often cause discord in safety procedures like ensuring correct dilutions.

Maintaining clean, inviting spaces is vital, but not at the expense of employee health. By contrast, alternative eco-focused products, such as BioHygiene, use a synergistic combination of renewably and sustainably sourced ecotechnology and biotechnology that achieve a superior cleaning performance with a much lower carbon impact. Ingredients achieve a 75-100 per cent carbon reduction compared to traditional technology, with savings as high as 1.3kg CO2e / L, equivalent of 475ml of crude oil.

Opting for naturally derived cleaning products like ecotech and biotech, with lower hazard classifications, minimises safety risks for users, ensuring a safer and healthier environment.

Despite the belief that traditional cleaning chemicals provide the most powerful clean, advancements in eco/biotechnology now allow businesses to achieve powerful cleaning without trading off sustainability and health.

Biotech cleaning products utilise specific bacteria to target and remove organic matter and odours. The bacteria produce specific enzymes which multiply and spread across surfaces rapidly, creating what’s known as a biofilm. This enables them to get deep into surfaces and fabrics and remove dirt, grease and odours from areas where traditional cleaning products can’t reach.

Not all organic matter is the same. The key is to use the right bacteria that produce the right enzymes to combat the cleaning challenges, for example:

  • Amylase – breaks down starch
  • Cellulase – degrades vegetable matter
  • Lipase – breaks down fats, oils and greases
  • Protease – digests proteinaceous matter
  • Uricase – breaks down uric acid

Bacteria continue to colonise so long as there is a food source present and prolonged use of a product ensures that a thriving biofilm is maintained. This provides long-lasting residual cleaning action and makes subsequent cleaning easier, helping to streamline cleaning practices and reduce the amount of product needed for future cleans.

As businesses navigate a societal shift toward environmental responsibility and prioritise the wellbeing of customers and employees, the FM sector stands at a crossroads; continue with petrochemicals which undermine the progress of modern business ESG or start the process of adopting innovative cleaning technologies. Petrochemical based cleaners no longer align with the demands of society, and it is time to move away from the misconception that natural based cleaners don’t provide a better cleaning performance.

About Sarah OBeirne

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