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How can the cleaning sector achieve climate change targets?
26 February 2020
Mark Jankovich, CEO, Delphis Eco, the award-winning, British eco-cleaning chemical manufacturer, discusses the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference COP26, why it’s arguably the most important one to date and how the cleaning industry needs to change and act to help achieve climate change targets.
Hard on the heels of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement of the 26th session of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), we now all understand more about what will be tackled at this summit, and indeed what this means for the cleaning industry, as a whole.
COP26 is due to take place in Glasgow in November 2020 and is arguably the most important UN climate change yet. There are exactly 10 years left until 2030 – the year identified in The Paris Agreement to achieve keeping global warming to well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C.
The Paris Agreement was the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate change agreement and so marked a step-change in how the global crisis is being approached. It’s not a ‘nice to have’ – it’s now legally binding! This climate crisis will quite literally have an unfathomable impact on the future for generations to come.
Sir David Attenborough joined PM Boris Johnson when he launched COP26, where the importance of the event was made perfectly clear – unless we do something now, the climate crisis becomes insoluble.
The UK has committed to the target of net zero emissions by 2050 – an ambitious target but a do’able and important one – and PM Boris Johnson set out various plans to help achieve this, such as bringing the ban of petrol, diesel or hybrid cars forward from 2040 to 2035.
So, what does this critical year in climate change mean for the cleaning industry? And more importantly, what can we do to play our part and help achieve these targets outlined?
We, as an industry have the potential to make a big difference. Nearly all cleaning products come in some form of plastic packaging – bottles of bleach, detergents, anti-bacterial sprays and so on. 300 million tons of plastic is produced annually and the world only recycles 9% of the plastic it makes annually meaning a minimum of 91% goes into landfill, the ocean or is incinerated. Needless to say, this has a material impact on climate change through waste processes.
We need to find ways to reduce the amount of virgin plastic produced and what gets discarded – and there are ways. For example, using recycled plastic so we aren’t adding to this number. In fact, using recycled plastic as an alternative to virgin plastic achieves a 70% reduction in carbon; a huge improvement.
There are often businesses – big, global organisations – who say that achieving 100% recycled plastic in their products is too difficult or too hard to achieve. We don’t accept that. It is possible. It is achievable. We know this because we did it. Our products at Delphis Eco are packaged in material made from 100% recycled plastic. It wasn’t an overnight achievement; in fact it took six years and a lot of patience, determination and sheer grit – but we did it! And if we – as an SME – can do it then there is no excuse for anyone else in the cleaning sector to not do the same.
We do it by using recycled plastic bottles sourced from local authorities – diverting thousands of tonnes of plastic from going to landfill or the ocean. It’s this approach – i.e. a focus on bringing innovation and eco-friendly solutions to products – that closes the loop on single-use plastics.
Of course it’s not just about the cleaning industry producing the ‘right’ products; it’s also about ensuring that consumers and businesses know what we’re doing and therefore making the right purchasing decisions. And change is starting to happen – for example, we worked with The Shaftesbury Estate, owners of Carnaby Street in London’s West End, on their Blue Turtle collaboration with ocean conservation organisation Project Zero, which inspires restaurant, bar and café community of Carnaby Street to take action to protect the ocean. Their ‘Blue Turtle’ scheme aims to reduce the consumption of single-use plastic products and encourages businesses to adopt more sustainable business practises.
However, for many there is still genuine confusion around what products and packaging are the kindest to our environment. There are over 28 different marks on what is, and what is not, recyclable.
In research we conducted last year, 60% of people said they are confused about which types of plastic packaging are the most harmful to the environment and a further eight of out 10 said they would support clearer labelling of plastic packaging to help them determine its impact on the environment. It would certainly make it much easier if there was one definitive mark that clearly stated a product’s plastic credentials.
This is why we launched a new Recycled Plastic Rating (RPR) mark in 2019; a rating scheme which instantly shows consumers the amount of recycled plastic content used in the packaging of the products they are buying. This radically simplifies the 28 possible options to just one industry standard. This will give the cleaning industry the ability to vote with their purchasing power and choose packaging that is diverting plastic from landfill; not adding to it.
The RPR enables all who work in the cleaning industry to see, at a glance, the exact plastic credentials of products they are using – and make necessary changes to other, more eco-friendly brands, if needs be.
In order to turn this ‘plastic crisis’ on its head we need to all align our choices. We need to align on only using products with packaging that has been recycled. We need to align on only working with suppliers who package products responsibly – that way the suppliers that don’t, have no option but to bring to market products that are made from recycled plastic or risk going out of business. If we don’t buy their plastic products, they can’t sell them – it’s simple.
It’s largely about collaboration. If each professional reading this decided that today they would take action and make today the day they committed to using products with 100% recycled packaging they would reduce their carbon by 70% and change would happen.
The task is a mammoth one – but it’s not a solo endeavour. At the risk of being repetitive, it’s about collaboration. It’s about each and every person in the industry making changes. It’s about cleaning companies changing suppliers. It’s about suppliers changing manufacturers. And so on. Each change will result in another, and another, and another, until, collectively, it becomes a big change. It’s action that we take together, as a united cleaning industry that will have the real power behind it. We urge everyone in the industry to stand together, with ‘one voice, one vision’, and work together to make this happen.”