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A lot of bottle – tackling plastics

27 February 2020

We all need to do our bit to reduce plastics. Dominic Ponniah, CEO, Cleanology believes that with commitment and innovation, the cleaning industry can make great strides in cutting waste.

These days, plastic is not so fantastic. In fact, over the last few years our love affair with plastic has reached rock-bottom. Plastic waste – particularly packaging waste – has caught the public imagination and, quite rightly, our use of plastic in industry, production and packaging has come under intense scrutiny. 

Cleaning firms have many opportunities to reduce waste, and to ensure that products or packaging that cannot be eliminated are reborn, closing the loop. At Cleanology, for example, we assess all of our waste materials and reduce as much as possible. Even our uniforms are made from recycled plastic bottles! 

Why reduce packaging?
The damage plastics are doing to our environment are indisputable. While microplastics leach from our clothes and find their way into the food chain, packaging products are finding their way into the oceans and damaging wildlife.

According to the World Economic Forum, plastic in the ocean will equal the weight of fish by 2050. The most durable plastics, such as PET bottles, take 450 years to break down, so year-on-year, the volume increases. While government is tackling issues such as single-use plastics through legislation, we all need to do our bit. 

Waste reduction
The first step to address waste is to choose products with a low impact. Chemical-free cleaning has risen over recent years, but the cleaning industry still has a large footprint when it comes to waste. Bottles of solution, waste cleaning cloths and bathroom products all stack up, and that’s before you consider the waste generated in the buildings we clean and in our own offices. 

At Cleanology, we assess every product we buy. Customers are also paying more attention to the products that cleaning firms bring on-site. They are asking for products – and packaging – to be made from recyclable material and recyclable at the end of their lives. We are moving away from less recyclable packaging such as cellophane wrapping to more recyclable products such as toilet roll packed in cardboard boxes.

At the same time, our portion-controlled, chemical-free sachets of cleaning product are saving us 16,092 litres of cleaning solution and 21,600 plastic bottles a year. After reducing plastic waste, we’ve even switched the packaging of our sachets in order to make it more recyclable.

Recycling and recycled products
While we try to eliminate as much waste as possible, some waste remains, particularly on-site and almost all of this is recycled. Recycling material in the UK keeps plastics out of the oceans and also helps to reduce transport emissions, and our rigid plastics, cans, paper, food waste and coffee granules are all recycled. Meanwhile, we not only recycle our bin bags, but also buy 100% recycled unless contracts state otherwise. 

Our biggest closed loop innovation, however, is the development of operative uniforms from recycled plastic bottles. Each polo shirt is sourced from two bottles, while the sweatshirts worn by our staff are made from three bottles. Altogether, our annual use of 3,000 items of clothing manufactured from plastic bottles results in 7,000 plastic bottles finding a new home, right back where they started.