Recycling has been an environmental watchword for many years but it’s not a silver bullet for waste control. We need to focus more on precycling, or what we like to think of as the first R of the 3Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Precycling is about reducing waste by:
- Avoiding items that will generate it;
- Selecting certain items that will generate less waste; and
- Acquiring items that can be reused or used for a different purpose.
Precycling can also bring significant savings early on in a manufacturing process. Manufacturing cleaning products requires the use of many resources, both renewable and non-renewable.
The performance of a cleaning product has a direct correlation with the resources used: if a low performance cleaning product is used, more of it will be needed to deliver the same level of cleanliness as perhaps a more effective or more expensively formulated product will. Conversely, if a concentrated cleaning product is used, there will be a consequential reduction in environmental impact thanks to there being less plastic and less energy needed during its production, when compared to a traditional product.
Precycling, then, has a stronger positive environmental impact than recycling, and even reduces the need for recycling. Although recycling is a positive and necessary process, it still requires energy and resource consumption.
Developing formulations is not just about mixing ingredients that will provide a functional product, it is mainly about finding the way to generate the best synergistic action between ingredients. The addition of some ingredients may lower the cleaning performance of the formulation; for example, selecting a specific antibactericidal raw material that is also a surfactant allows the use of just one raw material instead of two.
Reducing resource material use is a highly effective way to lighten our environmental footprint. It forms an integral part of our vision for a cleaner, safer world.