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Why sustainability is not just a drop in the ocean

03 April 2018

In this article Regina Henrich, the new european manager for ISSA, considers the impact of a sustainable approach in light of the growing threat of plastic waste; and how doing the right thing need not be a threat to profitability

Microbeads are tiny plastic particles that are commonly added to domestic skin and tooth cleaning products for their exfoliating properties. Flushed into waterways, these particles are building up throughout the world’s oceans. Their impact on marine life, and introduction into the food chain, is quickly becoming a symbol for the more visible long-term damage that plastic is causing. 

Concern is being expressed throughout Europe and the UK government has already banned the use of microbeads in cosmetics. However, microbeads – which are also present in professional cleaning products – are just one part of the problem. 


The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has found that each year at least eight million tonnes of plastic leak into the ocean; the equivalent of one garbage truck every minute. They forecast that by 2050 there could be more plastic (by weight) in the ocean than fish. Today, only 14 per cent of plastic packaging gets collected for recycling.

Awareness of sustainability has been on the rise in the cleaning industry for more than a decade and ISSA has consistently taken a lead in addressing the issue. Expressions of conscience are not enough. The association is mindful of how sustainability impacts on perceptions of the professional cleaning industry as a whole, and your livelihoods. The demand for consistently sustainable cleaning is a key element in our promotion of the value of clean.

The adoption of sustainable practices continues to challenge those of us involved in professional cleaning and hygiene and, as an industry, we need to take responsibility and a more holistic view. 


The ability to recycle generally leads the debate but just as important is the plastic waste recycling rate. Better quality plastic recycling is key as it will also help to provide high quality recyclate, increase the proportion of recylate in plastic bottles and support a circular economy. In this way material can be reutilised instead of being downcycled into lesser solutions, such as products or packaging. To all participants in the industry it should be a common concern to support a circular economy. Exact dosage of highly concentrated cleaning products leads to a reduction in packaging waste and disposal costs, and helps in saving resources. 

Product manufacturers are increasingly focusing on the production of sustainable products and packaging; evaluating impact through the entire life cycle from initial design, while using substances that are available in excess, or from renewable sources. 

By avoiding long distance transports, in addition to evaluating operations from storage to delivery and when taking back packaging, distributors minimise environmental impact.

Facility cleaners can increase their profit by choosing sustainable product solutions and innovative dosing devices; while reducing energy, water and finally waste with a comprehensive recycling programme. 


One of the audit criteria within our certification is sustainability, to drive the debate in ways which benefit our members. ISSA’s Cleaning Industry Management Service (CIMS) works under the five recognised pillars of management excellence, including Health, Safety & Environmental Stewardship. CIMS shows customers you’re aware of key environmental concerns and you are dedicated to high quality in meeting their raised needs and expectations.  

So strive and lobby for excellence. Comprehensive sustainable approaches can deliver better operational and financial efficiency. It is a time to be brave. ISSA will support you every step of the way in connecting the dots by providing network events, education, highlighting appropriate products, delivering training and sharing best available sustainable practices.