Increasing public awareness for sustainability has led to greater significance of the circular economy model in politics and industry in recent years. The shift is moving away from a linear economic model – produce, use, dispose – and toward a system with closed loops, in which resources are used as efficiently as possible.
With the topic of circular economy hardly anyone would initially think of the washing and cleaning processes. In fact, the sustainable usage of resources has already been the decisive sales argument in the industrial and institutional cleaning industry (I&I) for quite some time now: How can production be made more efficient? Which sustainable solutions exist for detergents and cleaning agents? How can ingredients and materials be recycled? Since industrial cleaning machines have a high degree of flexibility, in contrast to the home care sector, such innovations can be directly implemented. BASF Home Care and I&I Solutions Europe supports its customers in closing the loops and optimally using products as well as resources along the value-added chain. The circular economy model requires fundamental changes with respect to behavior and the use of technology.
It is important that thinking in terms of circular systems doesn’t end with the company’s own business activities. Circular economy, in the sense of a business model, comprises the entire value-added chain, and therefore the entire life cycle of a product, and creates additional value for suppliers and customers. An intelligent circular economy concept requires consideration of the different phases of product development, production processes, and product use right from the beginning, and integration of the recycling systems. The main objective is to reuse the cleaning agents and cleaned objects as long a possible, i.e., to keep them in the loop and to avoid waste products.
BASF follows two complementary approaches to implement the concept of circular economy: The „Keep it smart“ approach pursues the goal of making processes and products more efficient, both for in-house production and for the customer’s production processes, to use raw materials efficiently and therefore avoid wastes or even prevent waste production. The „Close the loops“ approach aims to close the systems. The necessity of both approaches can be derived from global megatrends. For example, more and more life activities are shifting out of the home environment toward collective facilities. Similarly, more and more services are being used. There are numerous examples of both approaches, for which BASF offers solutions to their customers.
Commercial textile cleaning
Nowadays, professional workwear is used in many sectors such as hospitals, factories, fire departments, public service, or catering. They serve as protective clothing, for identification, or even as part of a company’s image. Today, workwear must not only be stylish and practical, it must also be economically viable: it must be resistant and thus usable as long as possible. In addition to appropriate raw materials for the work clothes, the washing process with suitable laundry detergent components plays an important role. This includes, for example, using the suitable quantity of detergent at the right time, selecting the right washing temperature, and recycling the cleaning solutions. But many other aspects also play a role: self-imposed sustainability goals, further development of the ecolabel or changing regulations. Thanks to the protease enzyme Lavergy Pro 104 L, textiles can be cleaned at low temperatures of 20 to 40 degrees without compromising on the overall cleaning performance. Thanks to the milder washing conditions, the textiles are protected and therefore have a longer service life. Improved cleaning performance reduces sorting out of textiles. The enzyme is rapidly biodegradable, based on partially renewable raw materials, and fulfills the criteria for the EU Ecolabel.
People are cooking less and less at home – they prefer to go eat at company canteens or restaurants. Cafeteria or restaurant operations require an economical, hygienic, and sustainable concept – such as the use of ecological and regional products, the reduction of food wastes, and resource-efficient cleaning and hygiene. A holistic approach is particularly important in the food sector. To take this into account, BASF also offers solutions with the so-called „Easy-to-clean-again effect.“ A cleaning agent that is formulated with the surface-modifying polymer Polyquart Ecoclean Max protects the treated surfaces from resoiling and makes them easier to clean the next time around. Another significant work step in the catering industry is dishwashing. Dishes should be robust and sparkling clean. The right dishwashing detergent is of great relevance, as it can help to reduce water and energy consumption and shorten the procedure – crucial factors to increase the efficiency of a catering operation while making it more environmentally friendly. As a strong chelating agent, Trilon M offers considerable advantages for automatic dishwashing. The product is readily biodegradable and complies with the requirements for the EU Ecolabel – with excellent cleaning performance. Thus, solid formulations can contribute significantly to saving energy, costs, packaging, and space and increase application safety. The special glass protection of Trilon Ultimate 2G extends the lifespan of washed glasses.
For many people today, cars are a status symbol that are nurtured and cared for. Not only legal regulations, but also the consumer’s increasing environmental awareness have led to the established trend of washing cars in car wash facilities. Meanwhile, these offer a wide range of basic and special cleaning programs such as paint or rim care. Mild and readily biodegradable yet highly effective cleaner components such as Glucopon types help to protect the material and therefore extend its life cycle. In addition, Dehyquart CSP contributes to energy-efficient and excellent drying results.
There are many other examples of how BASF Home Care and I&I contributes to the needs of the circular economy approach. The company has designed various concepts to this end, which define the possible contributions toward transforming a linear economy into a circular economy.
The activities of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (see box), established in 2010, has also put more emphasis on the concept of circular economy. Among other things, this has led the European Commission to adopt a set of measures in favor of a circular economy in 2015. Since May 2017, BASF is a member of the „CE100“ and „New Plastics Economy“ initiatives of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. It aims to further promote its already existing solutions toward a circular economy.
The model of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation fits very well with the trends and requirements of the I&I industry. It opens the door to innovative and sustainable business models in the detergents and cleaning agents industry and can therefore provide better living standards for the growing world population. BASF fully supports this approach and continues to follow it intensively together with its customers.
Author: Dr. Nicole Graf, BASF SE
Senior Marketing Manager
Home Care and I&I Solutions Europe
Ellen MacArthur Foundation to establish a circular economy
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, established in 2010, works with business, government, and academia to build a framework for an economy that is regenerative by design. The transition from a linear to a more circular economy can and should significantly change business models and create additional value for industry and society. The goal is to develop an attractive and sustainable alternative to the linear model of a throwaway society. An intelligent concept for circular economy must be integrated right from the beginning in the various phases of product development, production processes, product use, and in the recycling systems. Because of its innovative capacities, the chemical industry plays a leading role in this transformation. BASF has recently become a member in two of the Foundation’s programs.