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Is Green More Clean?


Exploring the effectiveness of enzymes in cleaning


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Is Green More Clean?

Global warming and infertility of land on account of excessive use of chemicals and pesticides compelled the European and western countries to shift to bio-degradable, eco-friendly cleaning products. Continuous usage of chemicals and pesticides over the centuries has caused havoc to humanity in the form of cancer, deformities, infertility, etc. This is also the reason for unseasonal rains, floods and droughts. European countries have banned the usage of hazardous chemicals in the home and agriculture. This awareness has made them turn to bio products, which are eco-friendly. Thankfully, public awareness on the detrimental effects of harmful chemicals in cleaning products is increasing rapidly.

Despite this awareness, many cleaning products that are currently widely being sold and used contain toxic and harmful chemicals like SLES, ammonia, phthalates, phosphates, chlorine, bleach, etc. Most of these are not only harmful to humans but also to the environment. To make things worse, some are also carcinogenic. In January 2012, H. H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai and Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, launched the Green Economy initiative under the slogan ‘A green economy for sustainable development’. Under this initiative, the UAE seeks to become a global hub and a successful model of the new green economy to enhance the country's competitiveness and sustainability and preserve its environment for future generations. The government’s policies encourage investments in green economy and in the facilitation of the production, import, export and re-export of green products and technologies.

What is green cleaning?

Green cleaning isn’t black & white. ‘Green’ is a colour. At a primary level, it’s what you get when you mix the primary colours, blue and yellow. To an astronomer, it is the portion of electromagnetic radiation continuum with wavelengths of approximately 490 to 570 nanometers. To the EPA, ‘green chemistry’ means to promote innovative chemical technologies that reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances in the design, manufacture and use of chemical products. Originally, green meant the ingredients in cleaners were derived from plants and biodegraded easily after joining our waste streams. In cleaning at a household level, ‘green’ simply means something better for the environment.

Now, to define green cleaning, we need to understand what is better for the environment. And that is where the confusion and the opportunities lie. There are plenty of NGOs, EPA initiatives, non-U.S. country guidelines, etc., that are setting standards and reviewing chemical ingredients and cleaners. However, there are no standards that, if met, have been proven to be better for the environment. Also, it is very difficult to prove that a cleaner is hazardous for the environment. It depends on why, how and how often it is used – not just the ingredients it contains. A useful definition to help us evaluate cleaners is ‘risk = exposure x hazard’. Any green standard that does not take into account exposure is incomplete.

The good news is that environmental groups, state legislators, the EPA and the cleaning industry are working together on continual improvement of the cleaners we use. Although the term ‘green’ has been with us for only the last decade or so, developing more environmentallysound cleaning products has been the norm since the 1950s! We learned that the biodegradability of cleaning ingredients was important in the 1950s. The industry removed ozoneharming chemicals from aerosols in the 1970s. Laws were passed to limit the use of phosphorus in household cleaners due to eutrophication beginning in the 1970s, and it still continues today. All of these are examples of green initiatives that took place long before ‘green’ came into vogue.

So what is green cleaning? It is taking all the yellow and blue nuances of the chemistry, processing, packaging and disposal that go into creating and using a cleaning product and balancing them for environmentally safe and efficient cleaning. Green cleaning is the commitment to make, use and dispose of cleaners with the people, environment and sustainability in mind.

So, what exactly does it mean to be green? Does ‘green’ mean consideration of safety for people and animals? Does it mean that a product is made from plants and not solely petroleum? Biodegradable? Less packaging? Recyclable? Green must also mean ‘effective.’ A cleaning product that does not clean well is not good for the environment.

Enzyme-based cleaning products clean objects by breaking down the complex structures of the dirt and grease into simpler structures. Most importantly, using enzymes for cleaning ensures that we are working along with nature and also helping get rid of various toxic chemicals. Enzyme cleaners are green, eco-friendly, non-toxic, non-hazardous, non-flammable, bio-degradable, pH neutral, dry fast, leave no residue and are available ready to use. They are a unique blend of enzymes and plant-based surface-active agents with natural salts.

Enzymes and their benefits

Enzymes are biological molecules (typically proteins) that significantly speed up the rate of virtually all of the chemical reactions that take place within cells. Enzymes speed up chemical reactions in the body but do not get used up in the process. Almost all biochemical reactions in living things need enzymes. With an enzyme, chemical reactions go much faster than they would without the enzyme. Enzymes are vital for life and serve a wide range of important functions.

Our human body contains several trillion microorganisms including at least 1,000 different species of known bacteria. The bacteria in our gut produce enzymes to break down our food particles from complex structures to simple ones enabling digestion of food. Then they convert them to glucose and blood.

The food we eat can be majorly categorised into proteins, fats, carbohydrates, starch, minerals and lactose. Different kinds of enzymes are needed to break down each category of food. For example, the enzyme protease helps in breaking down all proteins, and the enzyme lipase helps in digesting all fats.

The same concept applies to our environment when it comes to the decomposition of all organic waste. All kinds of dirt, be it soil, grease, grime, etc., can be cleaned very effectively using enzymes and without harming the environment. Millions of gallons of wastewater released after cleaning with such enzyme-based products can be directly used for watering plants without causing any harm to the environment.

About the authors: Seethesh Rajan, Founder & CEO, Cubez and Zanhar Zubair, Managing Director & Co-founder, Cubez have launched ZymX – a brand with a wide range of perfectly enzymatic, sustainable green cleaning products.