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Chemical free attraction

07 March 2013

Tennant's ec-H2O technology allows chemical-free cleaning by using electrically converted water. But can Tennant convert the cleaning industry? Gerardine Coyne spoke to ec-H2O global product manager Sven Toelen on his return from COP15 in Copenhagen

Tennant's ec-H2O technology allows chemical-free cleaning by using electrically converted water. But can Tennant convert the cleaning industry? Gerardine Coyne spoke to ec-H2O global product manager Sven Toelen on his return from COP15 in Copenhagen

Tennant says sustainability is 'meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs'. It believes its strategies are in line with those discussed at COP15. In 2009 its ec-H2O technology was the winner of a European Business Award for Business Innovation,won a place in the R & D Top 100 innovations and has third party validation from ecoform, while its city cleaning sweeper, the 500ZE helps clean with less water and less noise pollution.

To show its commitment to bringing sustainable solutions to market,Tennant also sponsored the third edition of the Climate Action publication produced for COP 15.The publication is produced in partnership with UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme).

It aims to encourage businesses and large organisations to reduce their carbon footprint, and puts forward the business case for climate change - namely, that environmentally responsible operations can also be profitable.

"COP15 was a good platform to share our message and now is the right time for us," says Toelen."Three years ago Tennant made the shift to sustainability and sustainable technology.We want to share this with the cleaning market, but we also want to reach out to different industries." Toelen says that one of the main trends after COP15 will be that different industries will work together. He cites Walmart in the US as a big driver of sustainability in demanding sustainable solutions from every part of its supply chain."Any company which fails to adapt itself to sustainability will lose out.You have to provide what clients and customers want."
Toelen says the sustainability driver for Tennant was definitely customer feedback. Firstly it was client CSR that was the push, as initially customers believed that they would have to pay a premium price for products and services.However, long term, says Toelen, sustainability can only lead to savings.

It's electrifying
The ec-H2O does not use any chemicals for cleaning,making huge savings in chemical costs.Other benefits include: no need to change chemicals, staff do not handle chemicals (saving on PPE and training) and reduced transport and storing of chemicals.There is also less water consumption, and it claims to result in drier floors - an important safety issue.

As an example, the average size of the 301 IKEA centres globally is 20,000m2. Based on 9 months of ec-H2O experience within IKEA, Tennant estimates a reduction in water usage and wastage of 30 million litres, a chemical reduction of 500,000 litres and chemical savings of 875,000.

Tennant calls ec-H2O a 'Technology Platform' for the evolution of cleaning.Over time, the company sees a progression being made from traditional cleaning chemicals to 'green' cleaning chemicals and ultimately to chemical-free cleaning.

No chemical reaction
Compared to a traditional chemical cleaning footprint,Tennant claims that ec-H2O reduces the environmental impact by 77-98% in categories including energy,waste, water and chemicals.

But what about the chemical market? What does it have to say about chemical free cleaning? "Initially there was some propaganda.

Some companies were saying that 'chemical-free'was just a marketing gimmick, but lately we haven't heard any negative opinions. The fuss has died down," says Toelen.

However, chemical-free cleaning is not suitable for every need. In the case of pandemics, the killing of viruses and bacteria is necessary, not just the cleaning of hazardous areas. "We mainly clean floor surfaces, which are less crucial than surfaces that are frequently touched," argues Toelen."Also any chemical residue that is left on floors attracts dirt. People think that by using masses of disinfectant that they are being effective, but if there is even a slight sticky residue they have defeated their purpose. In the future we do want to develop chemical-free cleaning that is outside our comfort zone.We have made a start with Activeion for surfaces."
(In May 2009 Activeion Cleaning Solutions exclusively licensed Tennant's ec-H2O for handheld spray applications.Activeion's first products under the license were the Activeion Pro and the Ionator EXP - also available through Tennant. The portable sprayers for professional cleaners are effective on surfaces including glass, stainless steel,wood and carpet).

The aftermath
Toelen says expectations were set too high before COP15, but believes that after all the media attention a shift will be made in all industry."This is not an ending. It is a trend that can't be changed." But back to cleaning, after Copenhagen, there is bound to be a renewed focus on sustainability at Interclean, so what is the aim for Tennant? "We want new customers and partnerships where we can share technologies.We will be showcasing our ec-H2O machines including scrubber dryers and sweepers and a new lithium battery powered city cleaning machine."
Tennant is confident that it is paving the way for sustainable business, and it is not alone. In the face of climate change, surely Corporate Social Responsibility is an imperative, not an option? "You would think so," agrees Toelen,"but we are not there yet."