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Rental Cleaning Tools The Japanese way of going green

Every country takes up the environmental issues as a deep social concern, but we see that the most enthusiastic area in the world is Europe where every company and every citizen seems to be conscious about green issues. On the other hand, USA, has not yet ratified the Kyoto Protocol (adopted at Kyoto Conference in 1997) that advocates the CO2 reduction goal. In Asian countries, both the attitude to environmental issues and the development of law are still not clearly defined and vary from country to country.

The green movement has been existing in the hygiene and cleaning industry in Japan from early on. This 50-year-old industry in Japan has greatly contributed to modern society’s awareness for environment-friendly issues, basically through ‘Rental Cleaning Tools’. People use the cleaning tools repeatedly and implement “3R” of recycle, reusable and reduce.

In Asian countries, including India, the word ‘rental’ has not been understood properly. To them ‘rental’ means incurring loss. Basically, because they don’t own the equipment for which they are paying. However, we always explain to them that it is incorrect to equate “not owing to losing.” All the more because, by renting an equipment, people can use the equipment, yet not worry about the maintenance. ‘Rental of Cleaning Tools’ can in fact promote environment-friendly issues.

All over Japan, there are about 5,900,000 registered business institutions now. The definition of business institution is inclusive of from small single office, restaurants, supermarkets, factories, cinema theaters, hotels, department stores, schools and hospitals, as well as the government institutions. According to the market analysis that Kleen-Tex Japan does on the regular basis, surprisingly 50% of the organizations take some services of rental cleaning tools from the professional service providers in the whole market.

Why is the rental cleaning tools so popular among end users in Japan? There are so many answers, but the representative examples are as follows.

  • It is no necessary for end users to maintain the cleaning tools by themselves. If they own the equipment, they have find storage space, hire people for maintenance and have to pay for soap, water and electricity.
  • There is no hassle of replacing the old ones with new tools.
  • Also there is no problem of disposal. Discarding is an action that is totally against the Green.
  • Rental cleaning tool often has more superior function that makes the actual benefit and image of end users higher.
  • Rental cleaning tool always brings out the maximum effectiveness. The service providers collect the tools with dirt on time after every usage.

Service providers of rental cleaning tools are strictly required by law to maintain the collected dirty tools. For example, in case of the rental floor mat, the collected dirty mats have to be washed efficiently by the energy-conservational facilities with the specific detergent. The soiled water generated during the washing process has to be treated and recycled. The providers own facilities adhere to proper processes and treatments that are environment friendly.

The business style of rental cleaning tools of Japan, which started about 45 years ago was supplying synthetic wiping cloth for home cleaning. At that time in Japan, the wiping cloth had been mainly made of cotton. Housewives had to dip the wiping cloth in cold water first and squeeze it to make it suitable for cleaning. Dipping the cloth in cold water and sqeezing it a number of times while cleaning were damaging the woman’s hands. However, the synthetic cloth changed it all. It was made of synthetic fibres specially processed for dust collection and absorbing dusts without using water and without releasing the dusts. Additionally, to keep the effectiveness of the function lasting for a certain period of time, the cloth was not sold at shops but it was rented out which was a unique distribution style. After usage of the synthetic wiping cloth for the period, the service provider collected the used cloth and delivered the clean processed cloth. This was the first of rental cleaning tools in Japan.

This maintenance-free cloth became quite popular among housewives. Because they did not use water, their skin/finger problems disappeared completely! Moreover, the effectiveness of chemical agent for collecting dust could last for the period of rent.

The rental cleaning tools got evolved yet. The main cleaning for Japanese is wiping and sweeping. Though the rental synthetic wiping cloth solved the problem of wiping, sweeping was still done with sweepers that were bought at the shop. And there was also a problem, since 1 micron dust (that is on the floor of a normal house) once rises, stays in the air for a while, and falls by one meter after eight hours. Briefly, even if the house is cleaned with the sweeper in the morning, the dust falls down by night again.

The solution to this dust problem is Dust Control Mop (commonly called Rental Mop) as an alternative to an ordinary sweeper. “Dust Control” is the concept created in USA. It means catching dusts scientifically without using water and never letting it fly back. The special feature of rental mop is the different length of special piles (collective of twisted yarns) that do not let the dust release from the mop. Additionally, the rental mop is treated with an absorbent agent for catching dust in the synthetic wiping cloth. Therefore, both sweeping and wiping could be done by rental mop without using water. Further, the rental system is helpful to make the effectiveness last longer. During a certain period, end user can use the rental mop lavishly. The service provider collects the dirty mop and delivers the clean mop to the end user. The rental mop is extensively used in Japan both for commercial and domestic cleaning. There are various kinds of mops – floor mop to uniquely shaped ceiling mop. The material of mop has also been evolving from the old fashioned yarn (cotton) to the more advanced yarn (recycled polyester). The recycled polyester is born from the plastic bottle for drinks and discarded uniforms that are wholly environment-friendly. Now, as for the dust, where does it come from? As a matter of fact, it is said that about 70% (house) to 85% (business building) of dust inside comes from outside. And it has to be stopped at the entry level itself. Dust Control Mats catch dust scientifically without using water and also prevent the release of dust.

We can say that using recycled polyester for the products means it is contributing to “Green”. In Japan today 4R promotion (adding Refuse to 3R) has been actively implemented by the local governments.

End users can also buy disposable mats from the shops. However, the mechanism of catching dusts is very different in disposable mats. Here, “straight piles” are used on the mat front. It can catch dust, but dust stays on the surface giving the mat a dirty look always. On the other hand, rental mats catch dust in two ways – one is to catch dust with absorbent agent and the other one is to catch dust with piles. How can the mat catch the dusts without using the absorbent agent? The pile is made of Opti-Twist that is a bundle of heat set yarns. The heat set yarns can scrape dust and soils from sole of shoes aggressively and push the dust to the bottom of yarns keeping the surface of mat always clean.

The mat for rental specification is usually backed with NBR (Nit-rile Butadiene Rubber). Mats sold in shops are backed with similar rubber or with PVC. The NBR is one kind of synthetic rubber and it is anti-heat, anti-cold, anti-oil, anti-abrasion and anti-bend. Also, the NBR is flexible and stable on the floor and it makes the rental mat anti-skid. The PVC backed mats tend to be distorted such as curving up (commonly called rippling) or tearing of border; but it does not happen on the NBR backed mats. End user has to be very careful about handling the PVC backed mats since the PVC is not environment- friendly either.

The rental mat has made tremendous progress in the Japanese market. The material of yarn was mainly cotton decades ago and it was changed to vinylon and acrylic later. Now, the popular material is recycled polyester. In Japan, all rental mats have to be certified as anti-flammable items by fire law. We can say that using recycled polyester for the products means it is contributing to “Green”. In Japan today 4R promotion (adding Refuse to 3R) has been actively implemented by the local governments. Rental cleaning tools are exactly matching the 4R implementation. We have never had a day without seeing the word of “environment” in the newspapers in Japan. In India, too, I am sure, the movement for creating clean and hygienic environment is catching up.

HisanoRi Sasakura
Market Development Manager, Kleen-Tex Japan, Inc.

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