An environmental glossary for industrial detergents

Eco-friendliness concerns the choice, manufacture, use, and recycling and disposal of raw materials used in products. Responsibility and sustainable development serve as incentives for the development and launch of environmentally friendly products.

Consumers and businesses are increasingly interested in environmental issues. Different terms and certifications are a way of differentiating and classifying the eco-friendliness of products.  Many new things have been developed, and when talking about environmental issues there is a lot of new terminology that can easily cause confusion.

So what does each of the following terms mean – how many of them are already familiar to you?

Sustainable development is continuous change that also ensures good preconditions for life in the future. At present, natural resources are being used unsustainably over the long term. Environmentally sustainable development requires the use of renewable energy and materials, as well as recycled materials. An example of sustainable development is Kiilto’s use of waste heat through a recycling system (read more).

The promise to the environment is an environmental programme launched by Kiilto in 2018. The environment has always been important to Kiilto’s operations, and the project aims to promote sustainable development and reducing our environmental footprint. The project has the following concrete goals: 

  • Green material choices: Kiilto is the leading circular economy company in its field
  • Green packaging and logistics: Positive environmental impacts are the foundation for Kiilto’s packaging solutions
  • Green services: Kiilto Pro Services offer the best circular economy solutions in the business
  • Green energy: All Kiilto’s operations will be carbon-neutral by 2028.

Read more about Kiilto’s approach to environmental responsibility and the goals and sub-areas of the programme.  

Carbon neutrality refers to activities that do not result in carbon dioxide emissions, or the carbon dioxide emissions are compensated with other activities that act as carbon sinks. Such action is important for combatting climate change. Carbon-binding measures include forest projects, renewable energy development and construction projects. Climate neutrality is a broader concept that refers to all the gases that cause global warming and to compensation for emission of these gases. Kiilto is involved in activities such as seedling planting, where the planting of trees compensates for carbon dioxide emissions from domestic travel and factory emissions, for example. 

Responsible production refers to the origins of raw materials and products, and to the related working conditions. The origin of responsibly produced raw materials is clear, and the status of workers in the country of origin has been verified. Responsible production also entails ensuring that production does not cause negative environmental impacts, such as tree felling in rainforests. For example, responsibly produced palm oil is one possible raw material for the manufacture of detergents. The use of raw materials based on palm oil certified by the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is part of Kiilto’s environment programme. 

The Nordic Swan Ecolabel is a Nordic environmental certification that can be granted for products that meet the applicable criteria. Since the ecolabel is optional, the environmental and user safety requirements to be met may be more demanding than the law or regulations require. The criteria vary from product to product, and become stricter over regular intervals. The Nordic Swan Ecolabel makes it possible to assess the environmental friendliness of a product, as the criteria take account of the environmental impacts throughout the lifecycle. The evaluations are carried out by external experts. The principle is that the product must be among the best in its product group in terms of eco-friendliness, but the product must not be inferior in performance to products that do not carry the ecolabel. In 2020, Kiilto is launching its first industrial chamber washing detergent to carry the Nordic Swan Ecolabel.

Industrial detergents have certain characteristics that allow their environmental friendliness to be measured. Bio-based raw materials indicate how a product is manufactured and its ecological footprint, while biodegradability and anaerobic biodegradability provide information on the product lifecycle and how long the product will be a burden on the environment. 

Bio-based raw materials are in practice the same thing as renewable raw materials. It is a plant-based raw material and is thus compatible with sustainable development. (In theory, bio-based raw materials can also be fungal- or animal-based). The opposite to bio-based raw materials is fossil-based raw materials, which are non-renewable. In 2019, Kiilto switched from fossil-based machining fluids to bio-based machining fluids such as Easycool Futura or Easycool Futura 20 (read more). 

Biodegradability refers to the ability of bacteria to break down the product in the wild. In laboratory conditions, the test requirement for surface-active agents is generally 60% to 90% biodegradability within a month. Tensides are chemical compounds which, for example, lower the surface tension of water and remove and transport dirt. Biodegradability is the same thing as aerobic biodegradability, i.e. biodegradation in the conditions where oxygen is present. 

Anaerobic biodegradability is otherwise the same thing as biodegradability, except it occurs in conditions where no oxygen is present – for example, in the sediment layers of lake beds. Microbes must therefore be able to break down the product even without oxygen. This additional requirement is met by the tensides of detergents carrying the Nordic Swan Ecolabel. F 47 Tarmo is one example of a Kiilto product that uses anaerobically biodegradable tensides.

R&D manager
Jussi Kauko