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Sustainability spotlight: a focus for 2020

28 November 2019

As we embark on a new year, Alastair Scott, sales director at Robert Scott, evaluates the key issues of sustainability within the cleaning sector and outlines initiatives that should be at the forefront of every business’ plans for 2020 and beyond.

More than ever before, customers and their end-users are increasingly aware of the need to make more sustainable choices when it comes to their cleaning regime. Be that making more considered product choices that are less harmful to users and with better environmental credentials, or finding ways to reduce plastic waste and increase recyclable materials throughout the supply chain. 

Evidence from long term research studies has only further highlighted the huge responsibility that we, as an industry, have to create more sustainable products that reduce the impact on our environment and are not detrimental to the health of frontline janitorial staff. 

According to The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), the amount of plastic waste generated annually in the UK is estimated to be nearly 5 million tonnes, 40% of which comes from plastic packaging. 

Of course, it’s no surprise that packaging is one of the biggest contributors to plastic waste in all sectors, not just in the janitorial market, with the majority of single-use plastic being used to package and transport products across all goods sectors. 

In 2019, the industry saw more and more manufacturing companies publicly pledging to reduce their use of single-use plastic, moving towards the model of a circular economy. This was demonstrated when Proctor and Gamble recently committed to cut virgin plastic by 50% by 2030. Unilever, the parent company for brands such as Dove and Cif, also announced its plan to halve the amount of virgin plastic it uses over the next five years. 

Importantly, it takes less energy to create bottles from recycled plastic than it does from virgin plastic, giving manufacturers an incentive to use recycled materials to further reduce their carbon footprint and reduce energy costs. 

Continuing the sustainability push

With this in mind, in 2020, Robert Scott will continue to deliver a 100% recycled and 100% recyclable spray bottle that’s made here in the UK out of plastic milk bottles that would otherwise go to straight to landfill.

But it’s not only plastic that poses a threat to our environment. The issue of chemical use, particularly in the cleaning sector, is one that we need to take stock of. 

Not only are chemicals harmful to our eco-system, but they are also harmful to the end-user. A study conducted in 2018 by Norway’s Bergen University found that lung function for professional cleaners significantly declined over a 20-year period when compared to those that clean at home. 

As an industry, we should be looking at reducing our chemical use and offering alternatives to toxic and harmful products. With technological innovations such as Toucan Eco, a bio-cleaning agent that uses salt, water and electricity to create a chemical-free disinfectant solution, as well as products such as microfibre, that has natural antimicrobial properties, there are more and more alternatives being offered to traditional, chemical-heavy products. Not only is this beneficial for the environment and for the user, but these alternatives are often more cost-effective.  

There’s no denying that within the cleaning industry, there is a lot of progress to be made on the ever-pressing issue of sustainability. However, by encouraging businesses to talk about their eco-friendly initiatives, we can highlight the changes that need to be made and encourage real change.