SUSTAINABLE DETERGENTS: FROM THE CONCEPT THROUGH TO SERIES PRODUCTION
Today detergents must meet many requirements. Ecologically sustainable process solutions are becoming increasingly important. Kärcher faces this challenge in the new chemical and test laboratories at the site in Winnenden. An overview of the development of sustainable detergents.
Requirements of a detergent
Today detergents must meet many requirements. They should effectively combat dirt, be efficient and not pose any risks to the users and the environment. Ecologically sustainable process solutions are becoming increasingly important, which, apart from the gentle handling of resources and materials, also bear in mind the chemical, water and energy efficiency together with the cleaning process as a whole. Kärcher faces this challenge in the new chemical and test laboratories at the site in Winnenden and thus takes another important step to combine quality, efficiency and sustainability. Kärcher detergents are very effective and take into account health, environment and economy.
How are sustainable and efficient detergents developed at Kärcher?
A detergent is a completely normal product. Right at the start is the product idea. Trends, standards, technologies and new business models demand new resource-conserving products and therefore have an impact on the development.
At Kärcher this traditionally extends from product concept and specifications to prototypes and reality check through to series production. For 40 years now Kärcher has been developing its detergents and is moving more and more towards sustainability and environmental compatibility: Kärcher detergents are very effective and take into account health, environment and economy.
Sustainability for detergents – Interview with Frank Ritscher, Head of Research and Development of Chemical Substances at Kärcher
Mr. Ritscher, you manage the new Kärcher Detergent Competence Centre in Winnenden. All detergents for Kärcher are developed here. What must a detergent from Kärcher do, especially with respect to sustainability?
Firstly, it's important to realise that here at Kärcher we produce almost exclusively sustainable detergents. For us, sustainability means that it must be an overall sustainable solution. The product for cleaning must be produced not only on the basis of natural substances, but for the manufacture no other resources may be applied.
Let me put it this way: What use is an ecologically-based cleaning solution to us if other natural resources, such as rainforests, for example, are being destroyed? Above all, far-sighted action is important to us, which safeguards the survival of natural raw materials.
And last but not least: A sustainable detergent from Kärcher must work. It must be just as efficient as conventional products, otherwise, it will not be successful on the market and with consumers.
Since November 2018 you have been working in the new Kärcher Detergent Competence Centre in Winnenden. How does the new environment affect your work and the sustainable production?
Our opportunities for optimising resource-conserving processes have improved greatly with the new Kärcher competence centre. Especially the 240 square metre chemical laboratory with state-of-the-art scientific equipment is a massive improvement.
We also have a textile test laboratory and a new application test environment directly on site. There our developers can examine fibre composition and the processing of the sustainable cleaning products in detail for tensile strength, pressure resistance and wash resistance, as well as wear, using state-of-the-art measurement technology. In the chemical laboratory we have access to over 1,000 raw materials from the chemicals industry.
Apart from the ultramodern equipment, the biggest advantage is that at Kärcher we now have everything in the one place – this saves time and resources. Our new Detergent Competence Centre in Winnenden gives us the opportunity to organise not only our products, but also our product development process, more sustainably.
Kärcher is a global leader in cleaning technology. What does this mean for the production of sustainable detergents?
Basically what applies to us, applies to all developers: We always want to manufacture the perfect product. Then there are of course conditions, such as the selling price, which also play an important role with regard to the sustainable realisation. For us, a detergent from Kärcher must always be an improvement of an already existing solution. The improvement can be achieved, for example, in the area of efficiency or also in the sustainability of a product. Either an existing solution is improved or something new is developed.
What sustainability criteria must detergents from Kärcher fulfil?
Since 2012, all Kärcher detergents are now certified with the Sustainable Cleaning Label. The label characterises products which were manufactured in companies that act in a sustainable manner.
In addition, a number of our more than 600 different detergents meet the requirements of international, sustainable environmental certificates, such as the EU Ecolabel or the Nordic Swan Ecolabel, which are some of the strictest worldwide.
Where is the biggest development potential to make detergents from Kärcher even more sustainable?
The biggest optimisation potential in relation to sustainability is without a doubt in the area of the detergent packaging. Here the topic of microplastics plays a huge role. At the same time, there are significant rules as many detergents require special packaging due to their chemical contents. At the moment we are working intensively in the Detergent Competence Centre on the development of recyclable containers, which meet these requirements and make an important contribution to environment protection.
Sustainable products for indoor cleaning
Our product line for building cleaners includes all concentrates and ready-to-use cleaners, which are required for indoor cleaning: sanitary deep cleaners, sanitary maintenance cleaners, surface cleaners, glass cleaners and floor cleaners. The products all have the EU eco-label and the Austrian eco-label. Some products are also certified by Nordic-Swan.