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How do companies develop eco friendly products without sacrificing performance or profit?

One way, scientists in the cleaning industry are tackling this through the practice of green chemistry and green engineering. Green chemistry is an innovative, economics-driven and science-based approach to reducing or eliminating the use and generation of substances hazardous to human and environmental health. It is governed by 12 guiding principles developed by Paul Anastas, who is now director of Yale University’s Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering:

1. Prevent waste

Hazardous chemicals in cleaning products are routinely flushed into waste treatment plants and millions of empty containers are discarded every day. Scientists practicing green chemistry understand, it is better to prevent waste than to treat or clean it up. They look at the entire lifecycle of a new cleaning product and replace the cradle-to-grave approach to the more effective cradle-to-cradle approach.

2. Optimize formulation and production

Replacing a “glug-glug” method of dilution with an accurate chemical management system maximizes cleaning product yields. Engineering a method for 100% extraction of the cleaning product from the container optimizes product, reduces waste, and lowers costs to users.

3. Focus on eliminating the hazard

The traditional approach to managing chemical risk is reducing exposure to an “acceptable level.” Green chemistry is about reducing hazard. Removal of ingredients that are sensitizers, irritants, endocrine disrupters, corrosives, air contaminants, reproductive toxins, and carcinogens could substantially reduce potential harm to people and the planet. If the hazardous chemical is not in the cleaning product, then it can’t harm you.

4. Never sacrifice quality or performance

Product performance is tantamount in green chemistry. A product designed using green chemistry must perform equal to or better than equivalent traditional products. Scientists will validate performance both in the laboratory and in “real-life” cleaning environments.

5. Avoid use of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) whenever possible

Companies practicing green chemistry will formulate to eliminate VOCs. New hybrid surfactant combinations are replacing the need for VOCs without sacrificing performance.

6. Design for energy efficiency

Cleaning products formulated using green chemistry should be designed for use in cold water to eliminate unnecessary energy consumption. Moreover, the product should be formulated to reduce the amount of water needed to rinse away the solution and soils. Designing the product to be highly concentrated can reduce the amount of energy needed to transport products.

7. Use renewable raw materials

Fossil fuel materials are depleting resources and should be avoided whenever possible. Renewable materials are frequently associated with biological and plant-based starting materials. However, whenever a material can be easily regenerated within a short timeframe, it should be considered renewable.

8. Avoid unwanted derivatives

A chemical can be added to a cleaning product to manipulate the viscosity or foaming of a product to make it easier to package. If the chemical additive becomes a derivative that is inert and doesn’t contribute to the product’s performance, it should be eliminated.

9. Use catalysts whenever possible

Companies engaged in green chemistry use catalysts to reduce the amount of steps required to make a product. Small amounts of a catalyst added to a formulation can speed up or slow down a reaction to improve performance and minimize energy consumption and waste.

10. Design for degradation

Chemical products should be designed so that at the end of their function they do not persist in the environment and will break down into innocuous degradation products. In applying this principle to the design of a new cleaning product, companies ask such questions as, “When people are finished using this product, what happens to it? What happens if they pour it down a drain?” Green chemists will eliminate problematic surfactants like nonyl phenol ethoxylates and replace them with alkylpolyglucoside (sugar-derived) surfactants that will readily biodegrade into innocuous substances.

11. Pollution prevention

Green chemists look at chemicals and manufacturing processes to eliminate pollution wherever possible. Preventing pollution will protect our planet and can reduce the cost of regulatory compliance, waste disposal, wastewater treatment, and liability expenses.

12. Minimize the potential for accidents

Exposure controls are important, but provide limited protection. Exposure controls can and do fail. Elimination of harmful chemicals is the best way to minimize the potential for accidents. Green chemistry assures that products are designed to be safer and less toxic than current (and widely used) alternatives. Sustainable cleaning products are formulated with raw materials that are more innocuous and renewable, eliminating unnecessary solvents and other ingredients that have potentially negative impacts on human health and the environment, increasing formulation functionality and reducing the potential for accidents.

Source: CMM Sustainability

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