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An Introduction To The Concept Of Sustainable Industrial Cleaning

Aug 20, 2008
Today the word at the forefront of marketing campaigns in every industry is environment. For many it is just a gimmick and the latest buzz word however in certain industries it is at the forefront of concern. This is true for industrial cleaning as many of the chemicals used in cleaning products have been harmful to the environment and the response has been significant.

A common misconception by many people is that naturally occurring chemicals are safer and less harmful to the environment and humans than synthetic ones. Artificial industrial cleaning products can be designed to be just as biodegradable as an industrial cleaning product that relies on naturally occurring chemicals.

The initial concern with industrial cleaning is to maintain safety initially then move toward making the process sustainable. This applies not only to industrial cleaning but to all cleaning. For example, the consumer demand for antibacterial cleaners that claimed to kill 99 percent of all bacteria was causing concern for health associations around the globe as they created immune super-bugs.

This issue and many others were taken into consideration by DEFRA, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in conjunction with UKCPIA, the UK Cleaning Products Industry Association. In association with AISE, the European trade association for cleaning and maintenance products they drew up a plan for sustainability of cleaning and industrial cleaning.

Initially it was essential to identify how essential cleaning is in every part of our modern lives. Our bodies, homes, cars, restaurants, streets and hospitals bask in a level of cleanliness that would have been thought of as science fiction a century ago. Much of this is due to technological advances in industrial cleaning and cleaning products, but it was accepted that many products were harmful at various stages of the life cycle.

The life cycle referred to is how cleaning products are created from base product to disposal. The life cycle includes the raw materials used which need to be safety evaluated, an assessment of natural resources consumed such as water and CO2 emitted in the process, the stages of production, the stages of distribution to the customer and then the stages of disposal.

All elements of this process needs to be evaluated and monitored on an annual basis and this scheme is called sustainable cleaning. Industrial cleaning is one of the most important areas to maintain sustainability as the standards of cleaning dictated by health and safety standards require more powerful cleaning products however there are high strength eco-friendly industrial cleaning products on the market.

DEFRA also identified the need to communicate this sustainability information to the consumer to enable them to make informed decisions when purchasing. It is a fine balance that can be tipped either way, are we willing to compromise cleanliness levels of our homes or hospitals for more sustainability? It is an ongoing debate and more information on industrial cleaning sustainability can be found on DEFRA and UKCPIA websites.
About the Author
Shaun Parker is a consultant on industrial cleaning and a commentator on the sustainability debate.
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