The cleaning industry seems serious about sustainability
Credit: American Institute of Cleaning
Jillaine Dellis (second from the left), director of consumer goods company Henkel, said that by 2025, all of the company’s packaging will be recyclable, reusable or compostable.
Two years later, COVID-19 exhausted everyone. Even people in the cleaning industry who reaped the benefit of the unprecedented demand for cleaning and disinfection, are eager to talk about something else. If they have a choice, that is another matter of sustainability.
New and established suppliers have arrived in person at the 2022 meeting from the American Institute of Cleaning (ACI) in Orlando, Florida, ready with proposals focused on their small carbon footprints, bio-based ingredients and other environmental responsibility measures.
The CIE ethanol producer, for example, came looking for new customers for its corn ethanol just days after it was certified carbon neutral by an independent auditor. The industrial gas company Air Products and Chemicals captures carbon dioxide from the company’s Indiana plant, cleans it to food grade and sells it to food and beverage manufacturers.
Sustainability is no longer a niche category.
Rosanna Stokes, Business Development Manager for America, Lanxess
CIE Sales Director Bret Happel said carbon neutrality gives the company an edge over many of its competitors in the field of ethanol as more and more consumer companies seek to add low-carbon claims to their labels. . Anticipating continued growth in demand for carbon-neutral ethanol in the cleaning, beverage and pharmaceutical markets, the company is shopping for locations in Iowa and Nebraska for a new plant. Happel said there was talk of 97% of its capacity.
Sustainability has long been a buzzword at the Orlando meeting, but this year it seemed to be at the top of the list of priorities. When the last meeting took place in person, in 2020, 1,4-dioxane contamination in working surfactants as sodium lauryl sulfate dominated the conversation, and sustainability was a lesser concern, according to Elvira Greiner, associate director of specialty chemicals at market research firm IHS Markit. This year, the topic was central to almost every public session.
Specialty chemical manufacturer Nouryon, which split from AkzoNobel in 2018, launches its Dissolvine line of biodegradable chelating agents, which soften water to reduce deposits and improve the performance of surfactants and other cleaning ingredients. The current chelator, ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, has a long history, but does not decompose in the environment. Nouryon has just doubled its capacity for “green chelates”, methylglycine N,N– diacetic trisodium salt and glutamic acid N, N– diacetic tetrasodium salt, with the completion of a plant in the Netherlands, which completes the existing facilities in the USA and China.
Suzanne Carroll, Nouryon’s vice president of home and personal care, said that 65% of the products the company sells for house cleaning are biodegradable, or both, and 90% of its research and development has a degree of sustainability. “Green chemistry is growing much faster than conventional chemistry,” she said.
At the ACI Innovation Showcase panel, Nouryon shared the stage with five other ingredient manufacturers. Arxada, the former specialized chemical unit in Lonza, introduced citrus-based disinfectant wipes, which marketing director Kiran Kulkarni said are biodegradable and biodegradable. The latter is a rare feature of napkins, which are a growing presence in waterways and sewer clogs.
He was also Jun Su An, director of product development at Solugen. By combining enzymatic transformation with chemical catalysis, An said, the 5-year-old company is able to produce chemicals without significant streams of waste or by-products. His presentation featured Glucaric Acid, which is used to combat deposits and increase the cleaning power of automatic dishwasher detergents. Preliminary results from a life cycle analysis suggest that the Solugen process is generally carbon negative.
“We want to make sure that the carbon footprint associated with our chemistry is as small as possible,” An said. “We also want to make sure we have the most non-toxic, biodegradable chemistry.”
Scott Tuchinsky, head of Croda International’s North American consumer care division, spoke about the company’s Evogen microbial cleaners. This the new product category offers live microbes on surfaces where non-pathogenic insects are selected Bacillus strains in the case of Croda – decompose dirt and fat deep into microscopic cracks. Compared to conventional surfactants, microbes make the next cleaning session more efficient and effective and do so with a lighter environmental footprint, Tuchinsky said.
Rosanna Stokes of Lanxess used her time to talk about bringing home the food preservative sodium benzoate, traditionally used in food. The ingredient came to Lanxess in 2021, as did Stokes, with purchase of Emerald Kalama Chemical.
Stokes said the company’s benzoate-based Kalaguard is the first new biocide to win approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for home care products in more than a decade. The ingredient is already in over 200 products, a fast absorption that she attributed to its biodegradability and softness. “Sustainability is no longer a niche category,” she said.
Many people at the meeting pointed out that although consumers demand low-carbon biodegradable products in responsible packaging, they are not willing to compromise on performance.
Green chemistry is growing much faster than conventional chemistry.
Suzanne Carroll, Vice President for Home and Personal Care, Nouryon
“Green is beautiful, but the product needs to perform, it needs to be effective, otherwise the consumer will buy your product only once,” said Greg Smith, vice president of sales and marketing at Manufacturer of biosurfactants Locus Performance Ingredients. Locus recently entered into an exclusive deal for the supply of Dow, which said that Locus’ fermented sophorolipids offer a “substantial reduction in carbon footprint compared to conventional surfactants”.
Dow is not the only major chemical company looking at bio-based surfactants. Stepan, Evonik Industries, and Clariant made every move on the field recently. BASF Senior Vice President of Care Chemicals in North America Marcelo Lu said orders for alkyl polyglycosides – a family of bio-based surfactants that BASF has been selling for more than 25 years – have increased significantly since with the middle of 2021.
Between consumer demand for green cleaning and regulations regarding 1,4-dioxane – which is not a problem for most biosurfactants – some brands may have difficulty securing the ingredients they need to keep up, Lu said. “The latecomers will be in trouble.”
Volumes of biosurfactants are “a drop in the bucket” compared to conventional surfactants today, Greiner of IHS said, but that could change in the next 10 years. “I see companies taking this seriously,” she said.
Aaron Lee, Global Vice President for Home Care and Industrial Cleaning at Univar Solutions Chemicals Distributor, agreed that the move to sustainability is real. “It simply came to our notice then. This year was the first thing everyone talked about. It’s not just a marketing effort. There are real investments and teams dedicated to this. “
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