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Saturday, 21 July

Cradle to Cradle Not Cradle To Grave

Cradle to Cradle products

Our Circular Economy needs to include the concept of Cradle to Cradle cleaning writes, Gary Fage - whilst trying to unravel some of the buzz words in the environment world.

If, like me, you get increasingly frustrated by jargon acronyms - then I sympathise...and apologies for introducing an new one. However, if you are genuinely interested in supporting the concept of the circular economy you may not mind so much when it comes to Cradle To Cradle - which is also known as C to C or C2C).

Cradle to Cradle represents the biggest leap forward from previous certifications, such as EU Ecolabel and the Nordic Swan Ecolabel.

Many of the cleaning products we buy are mostly water with only a small amount of active ingredient. A typical bottle of cleaning fluid is 97% water and less than 3% actual valuable ingredients. Despite already having water in our homes and businesses, these products are packaged and shipped in disposable plastic bottles that are used once and then thrown away.

The inefficiency in how products are sold creates unnecessary shipping costs and loss of material value. In the UK, 7 billion plastic bottles are thrown away each year, with most ending up in landfill but many also leak into our oceans and wash up on our beaches.

For decades the way we consume detergents and other liquid products has been based on a linear model, resulting in valuable materials being landfilled or leaking into the environment.

In an attempt to address this, we need to be creating a more circular design for the ever present detergent bottle, that is durable, conserving valuable resources allowing the bottle to be reused again and again.

 

Refill

The result of a refill system is reduced energy, plastic waste and carbon dioxide emissions by 80-90 per cent compared to one-use bottles and the avoidance of the illogical need to transport water over great distances.

For the customer it is empowering to be able to make a conscious purchasing choice which reduces their plastic footprint, as well as paying much less for the products in the long term.

 

What's in the bottle?

Cradle to Cradle follows a circular model. Only raw materials from renewable sources are introduced into the cycle along with recycled items. Manufactured goods are produced in ecological factories using renewable energy and responsible use of water.

For chemicals, non-toxic plant-based acids such as citrus can replace their petrochemical equivalents without compromising efficacy. In addition to being completely renewable, they break down readily in the watercourse and actually provide a food source for marine fauna and flora.

 

Plastic

Plastic packaging can be manufactured from a combination of 75% plant material and 25% recycled plastic. Used packaging is 100% recyclable, keeping the circular model in motion and removing the need for virgin plastics.

 

Environmental Certifications

The Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard guides designers and manufacturers through a continual improvement process that looks at a product through five quality categories - material health, material reutilisation, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness. A product receives an achievement level in each category - Basic, Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum - with the lowest achievement level representing the product’s overall mark.

Product assessments are performed by a qualified independent organisation trained by the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute. Assessment Summary Reports are reviewed by the Institute, which certifies products meeting the Standard requirements, and licenses the use of the Cradle to Cradle Certified Trade Marked word and design marks to the product manufacturer. Every two years, manufacturers must demonstrate good faith efforts to improve their products in order to have their products recertified.

 

Getting your lines right

Historically, most manufactured products have followed a linear model, from cradle to grave. Raw materials are used to produce a product, the product is used and at the end of the product’s life the waste is disposed of - solids into landfill and liquids down the drain.  Whilst there has been a minor revolution in recycling and environmentally friendliness over the past few years, very few products can claim that they don’t follow this route.

Chemical products are one of the worst offenders when we really scrutinise their environmental credentials. The vast majority of chemicals used in the cleaning industry are derived from non-renewable petrochemical sources and the waste effluent usually finds its way into the watercourse where it can pollute or poison the environment.

Single Use Plastics are another huge problem, having been highlighted as one of the major scourges of the 21st Century. They have proven to have a seemingly overwhelming detrimental effect on our planet’s oceans and marine life.

There is a growing awareness that our planet is not indestructible nor its assets inexhaustible and that we should be using the Earth's natural resources more consciously and carefully.

My company, Janitorial Express, is embracing Cradle to Cradle with a new line of cleaning agents and many other products. We won't try to pull the wool over a buyer's eyes - we will offer the best items, from an environmental perspective, as we can. For some of our material wiping products for example, we don't have a Cradle to Cradle option...but we will recommend the next best level we can to all those companies that are and should be concerned about what the need to keep their facilities in tip top condition means for the environment.

Picture: The best Cradle to Cradle products from Janitorial Express.  

 

Article written by Gary Fage

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