In this exhaustive interview, Dev Gupta, CEO, Sanosil Biotech, breaks down the makeup of green chemicals, lists the requirements for a product to be considered eco-friendly, and explains how they not only match traditional cleaning chemicals in every aspect, but also beat them in terms of customer expectations.
In scientific terms, how would you define an eco-friendly cleaning chemical?
‘Eco-friendly’ refers to products, services or practices that don’t pose any harm to the user or the environment. It also refers to compositions and processes that minimise or even eliminate the use of hazardous substances. This applies across the life cycle of the product, from design to manufacture to use and ultimately, disposal.
Most cleaning and sanitisation products contain chemicals that are both toxic and corrosive. An eco-friendly cleaning product is defined as one that contains neither, and generates no such by-products after use.
In terms of its constituents, what can such a chemical contain, and not contain?
An eco-friendly cleaning chemical should be composed of ingredients which do not harm humans, animals and nature directly or indirectly, by its handling or usage. Ideally, the ingredient compounds should be biodegradable and break down quickly and naturally, without causing harm to people or the environment.
For example, in our product Virosil-Pharma, the main constituent is hydrogen peroxide, which breaks down into oxygen and water, both of which do not cause any harm to human health or the environment.
Eco-friendly cleaning chemicals should not contain ingredients such as chlorine bleach, triclosan, parabens and phthalates to name a few, which cause numerous health problems.
From raw materials and production to final degeneration of the chemical after use, what are the different ways in which a chemical can be eco-friendly?
An eco-friendly product starts with the raw materials required for a quality end product. Before procuring, it is necessary to ensure that the materials are without any contaminants and meet the highest standards.
The manufacturing of the disinfectant needs to be done in a facility that has hygienic conditions. Additionally, the manufacturer needs to ensure that the vessels, equipment, pipes and tubes that are used in the manufacturing processes are in good condition, without any contamination or defect, so as to guarantee a quality end product.
How does the cost of such chemicals compare to the cost of traditional chemicals?
An industrial eco-friendly disinfectant chemical like Virosil-Pharma is far more economical and greater value-for-money when one factors in three crucial considerations:
- Eco-friendly products are not corrosive and therefore do not risk damaging equipment.
- They are non-toxic and therefore do not put users and workers at risk of developing skin rashes, breathing problems and other health hazards that other non-eco-friendly products are known to commonly cause.
- Given the benign by-products after use, eco-friendly products have a faster disinfection cycle, resulting in reduced downtime before and after each disinfection cycle.
Can eco-friendly chemicals match the efficacy of traditional chemicals?
Traditional disinfection compounds are made up of chlorine and its derivatives, quaternary ammonium compounds, aldehydes and phenolic elements. Almost all these chemicals are major hazards both to personal health and the environment. Additionally, most of them tend to lose their efficacy on a broad spectrum of organisms, which easily develop resistance to them over time.
Numerous studies published in reputed trade journals have shown eco-friendly compounds to be significantly more effective than conventional options. These products remain biologically effective against a broad spectrum of microorganisms. This makes them an extremely popular choice for facility managers and quality auditors, given their safety and reliability.
Who or what certifies a chemical as eco-friendly? How is this done?
There are numerous agencies which label a product as eco-friendly or green solutions. One such agency is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), whose mission it is to protect the health of people and the environment. It certifies products so that end-users can easily identify the ones that are safer for people and the environment.
Key factors for eco-friendly certification are required contact time, surface coverage and wettability (its ability to stay wet on a surface), safety, cleaning efficacy, compatibility, environmental impact and ease of use.
Which customer segments have the most demand for eco-friendly chemicals, and why?
There is robust demand from almost all industrial segments. A high level of demand is seen particularly in the pharmaceutical and healthcare segments, due to increased intensity and requirement of cleaning and sanitisation at frequent intervals. These areas need high performance disinfectants to neutralise microorganisms and pathogens continuously, in order to achieve a high standard of hygiene and sanitation. Specifically in healthcare institutions, an eco-friendly product is the only option given the close proximity with patients and individuals with low levels of immunity.
Hydrogen peroxide-based products are also considered greener and more sustainable for the environment. They are popular for surgical theaters and laboratories.
Due to the pandemic, the demand for disinfectants has become an essential requirement for commercial establishments and malls. The eco-friendly chemical segment is expanding rapidly with customers almost universally opting for the safety and reliability of these solutions. Other customer segments for eco-friendly solutions include the water treatment industry, public health, cleaning-in-place (CIP), F&B, agriculture etc.