Acceptance of green cleaning chemical is higher in the developed countries like Europe, Canada and the US when compared to India. Experts say that the growth and acceptance for these chemicals in India, however, depends upon their usage and customer awareness. Clean India Journal finds out more…
Many of the chemicals claim to be Green certified, are the ones which are eco-friendly to some extent but are subject to checks for safety and health of human and animal population because of usage of synthetic ingredients. There are many chemicals which have very little natural ingredients but are sold as Green products.
Vivek Raut, Director, G-feno Cleanz, says, “We are focusing on maximising the use of natural and herbal ingredients and eliminating known toxins from cleaning products to ensure safety with hygiene for people, pets and property.”
Even though the usage of natural ingredients and water, in place of such ingredients is a safer option, it may seem to be a little expensive for the cleaning companies. Almost 70% of the cost of leading brands can be attributed to expenses other than the raw material and the packaging cost. This could be considered and controlled only by a serious attempt towards offering sustainability.
People are becoming more and more aware of the hazards of using solvents, like NP ethoxylates. Hence, they are moving away from solvent-based cleaning systems to water-based eco-friendly cleaning systems
“Sustainability has become firmly anchored in AkzoNobel’s business processes and fully integrated in the Strategy and Management Tools. Major business opportunities can be unlocked by applying sustainability thinking across the complete value chain, from raw material extraction to disposal or recycling of end products. Of course, excellence in operations, supported by robust Health, Safety, Environment and Security Management is a fundamental building block of sustainability framework,” says Sumedh Ganu, Sales Manager-Fabric & Cleaning Applications (Indian Sub-continent), Akzo Nobel Surface Chemistry EMEIA.
Green cleaning chemical and Safety
Green cleaning chemical is made of ingredients that are eco-friendly and safe for people & property on prolonged use. This is generally more easily possible when more of natural ingredients are used in manufacturing. Most of the synthetic chemicals are non- biodegradable, have corrosive properties, toxicity and/or carcinogenicity. Though it is not that all natural ingredients have same degree of safety, most of them unlike synthetic substances are safe.
“People are becoming more and more aware of the hazards of using solvents, like NP ethoxylates. Hence, they are moving away from solvent-based cleaning systems to water-based eco-friendly cleaning systems. There are water based eco-friendly cleaning products and surfactant blends that have excellent degreasing properties. At AkzoNobel, we emphasise on eco-friendly products and have come up with bio-degradable hybrid polymers too for laundry. Eco-friendly chemicals should be bio-degradable, reduce energy consumption, create less hazardous waste, be non-solvent based and use renewable feedstock,” explains Sumedh Ganu.
Speaking on identifying authentic products, Kartik Iyengar – Marketing Head, Diversey India Pvt. Ltd, says, “We’ve noticed a lot of companies talking about environment and environment friendly cleaning. This augurs well not only for the customers but also is good for the industry. However, we will strongly advice everybody to validate the environment friendly claims from these suppliers. There are many renowned companies globally that provide Green Certifications. Green Seal and Eco Logo are the popular ones certifying if the chemicals are really green or not. Hence, it is not only a question of supplying eco-friendly chemicals, but also to be able to provide the products along with best cleaning practices and establish guidelines for health and safety of occupants by not damaging the environment.”
“VOCs are generally responsible for creating toxic indoor environment and though these are not attributed by cleaning chemicals there could be certain ingredients that can lead to them. Diversey’s Green range which are also Green Seal certified is formulated in a manner where there is no or minimal impact of VOC and thereby improves the overall indoor air quality in a building.”
“Due to the low cost, easier application, stronger effect and higher profitability, many companies compromise with long term safety aspect of the products,” adds Vivek. It is actually weighing of short term incentives with the long term safety perspective which need to be done and companies need to consider the social responsibility factor also as a policy. These ingredients in fact are manufactured using higher energy which further renders them non-eco-friendly.
Vivek Raut lists out the following criteria for a chemical to be termed eco-friendly:
• Time taken for its bio-degradation and post degradation impact in the environment
• Corrosive properties on the surfaces
• Safety for People & Pet. The toxicity and carcinogenicity should not be there as this may result in accumulations on prolonged usage and exposures
• The impact on air quality, aquatic flora and soil fertility on usage, disposal and spillages
“Green cleaning products may appear more expensive. In fact, most of the green cleaning products require only fewer products per application to effectively get the job done. In addition, many green cleaners serve more than one purpose, requiring only one cleaner for multiple uses, rather than a separate product for each job,” says Vivek.
Also, an aware & rational consumer would love to pay more for the product he’s buying, than to pay for the advertising & promotional budgets or the brand image of a particular brand.
While most of the synthetic chemicals are harsh and corrosive in nature, green cleaning products are mostly non-corrosive on surfaces. Since most of the natural acids and alkalis are weaker than the synthetic ones they might not act as fast as their chemical and corrosive counterparts.
If properly blended, natural acids and alkalis clean with similar or at times with even better efficacy without damaging the surface.
There are two main misconceptions about eco-friendly cleaning, states Kartik Iyengar. “One, they are made out of natural substances and not all naturally occurring substances are eco-friendly. Their impact has to be seen in relation to the activity and the application in mind. Second, they are very expensive. Generally, when you create an eco-friendly product it is bound to be more expensive because of the nature of ingredients used. However, combined with the right dosing platform and the right formulation, our experience has been that based on the nature of consumption from site to site these need not really be more expensive than what is being purchased today. In the sense, there is very little cost impact due to eco-friendly chemicals being bought.”
Vivek Raut adds, “Since the cost of natural ingredient is generally high and these are weaker acids/alkalis when compared to synthetic acids and bases, companies find it easier and more profitable to use synthetic alternatives.”
How can the customers be educated? According to Kartik, training the end users and applicators are of prime importance. “The way to store, dilute and use needs to be effectively demonstrated and communicated. Diversey has always emphasised on training and educating the customers and the trainings are an important part of the cleaning experience of customers. However, it is also important that people who buy and use chemicals need to read and study all documents like Material Safety Datasheets and Product information sheets so that they themselves are aware of the risk associated with the chemicals they use.”
Commenting on the usage of Green cleaning chemicals for hospitality, healthcare and other segments, Kartik says, “Currently Green Chemicals that are certified as green chemicals are only available in the general cleaning and degreasing categories. This can also be termed as Housekeeping or Building care chemicals. The reason for the same is, these chemicals find application irrespective of the segment be it hospitality, office, hospitals or any other segments. Also, since the usage of these chemicals is the highest, the emphasis to convert these to green is the priority.”
Some of these products include applications like glass cleaners, general-purpose cleaners, restroom cleaners, carpet cleaners, floor finishes/sealers and floor finish strippers, and specialty cleaners.
“Green building market is a multibillion dollar market globally and in India this has been gaining popularity over the years. As green buildings increase, the need for Green or eco-friendly chemicals will also rise. A recent study states that Green buildings will account for 20% of all buildings in India by 2030. These could be office buildings, hotels, hospitals and more importantly Green residences. With that kind of progress we will surely see a spurt in the demand for the Green chemicals. The acceptance of these products will also increase when Green chemical supplying companies educate the customers and the market,” says Kartik Iyengar.