Back in 1979, someone decided, “Let’s stop killing aquatic life in the name of cleaning our houses,” and they founded a company that would produce eco-friendly cleaning products, something of a revolution in that time. This company is Ecover.
Fast forward 40 years later and we at Ecover are still as mindful as ever of the impact we have on the environment around us. And our mission to clean the world’s waterways is still in full force as part of our #LETSLIVECLEAN revolution. But how exactly are our biodegradable cleaning products better for our waters?
Well, firstly it started with this thing called phosphates. Now, any chemistry nerd will tell you there is nothing wrong with phosphates, which are naturally occurring compounds of phosphorus, hydrogen and oxygen. In fact, phosphates are important, even essential, nutrients for plants and animals.
The problem is, too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing. High concentrations of phosphates released into our waterways disrupts the balance of aquatic environment, causing excessive growth of algae. This overstimulation of aquatic plants then leads to oxygen depletion, killing the fish and drying up rivers and lakes.
The world started sitting up to phosphate pollution in the 70’s, and Ecover took the bold step back then to ban phosphates entirely from all our products. The good news is that many countries have since banned the use of phosphates in detergents, including the European Union and the United States. In countries where it isn’t banned, it’s really up to us to make the eco-friendlier choices.
But even in a world without phosphates in detergents, the issue then turns to one of true biodegradability.
You see, most detergents use surfactants - a word made from bits of the words “surface active agents”. Surfactants pull dirt away from what you want clean, so basically they’re like a stern nanny, pulling stubborn kids away from the playground when it’s time to go home.
That’s all well and good, but the trouble with surfactants after these are washed away from our homes is that if they are not fully treated in water treatment plants, they can affect the natural defences of plants and animals in our waters as well disrupt their hormonal system. In essence, the surfactants in our cleaning products are making aquatic life sick and dying.
Biodegradability is generally measured at 28 days, meaning within 28 days of leaving our homes in our wastewater, how much of it gets broken down and decomposed into non-harmful substances. You’d be surprised to know that the generally acceptable rate is 60% biodegradability. That’s still a 40% chance of fatality for our aquatic life.
Thankfully here at Ecover we don’t settle for anything less than 100% - and that’s exactly what our cleaning detergents are - 100% biodegradable. This means that every little bit of what you wash away gets naturally broken down within days by enzymes produced in living organisms into carbon dioxide, water, minerals and biomass, all of which get eaten up by little microbes in our water systems.
When you use truly biodegradable products, you can rest assured that you’ve helped save biodiverse aquatic life, rescued our waters from potential contamination, and extended the sustainability of our rivers, lakes, and oceans, an essential food source for all life on earth, including you and me.