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The Victor Valley Materials and Resource Management Strategy includes a Source Reduction chapter covering non-toxic alternatives to household cleaning products. The full report is available here with the non-toxic alternatives beginning on page 13 of chapter 3. Footnotes and sources are included in the full report.
The characteristics of hazardous waste defined earlier: ignitable, corrosive, reactive, and toxic are also characteristics found in many traditional household cleaners and other common household products such as solvents, as confirmed by reading the back of a bleach bottle container. Studies have demonstrated an association between cleaning product use and asthma, and between cleaning product ingredients and endocrine disruption or hormone disruption that can lead to reproduction, behavioral, and immune problems, and cancer.
Ingredients in traditional cleaning products that have found their way into the water, air, and soil have been proven to reduce water quality, fish and animal populations, and increase ozone depletion (with its related damaging effects on the atmosphere), water contamination, and soil erosion. To reduce the health and environmental hazards and risks associated with traditional cleaning product ingredients, many manufacturers and jurisdictions have developed and promoted non-toxic alternatives that perform comparably to leading conventional brand products. This section highlights research on non-toxic alternatives, with a focus on impediments to increasing their use and potential solutions to those ingredients.
Sun & Earth Company
Sun & Earth, a non-toxic alternative manufacturer located in Pennsylvania, felt most government agencies have concerns about using non-toxic cleaners in institutions such as schools and that regulations requiring the use of non-toxic alternative cleaners in schools are helpful. However, Sun & Earth primarily distributes to retail markets on the east coast for consumer use and has done little with institutions because the barriers to enter those markets are more challenging. The company has been in business for 20 years and attributes its success to product performance and consumer awareness through grass roots marketing.
Clorox®, a household name for chlorine bleach, has been marketed by the Clorox Company since 1913. This product contains 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite, an inorganic compound that is highly reactive with biological material (the balance is water), thus giving it significant household cleaning capability. In the recent past, the company began marketing a natural product line called Green Works. While the Clorox Company’s marketing of the non-toxic Green Works products competes with Sun & Earth, Sun & Earth believes that Clorox’s efforts, due to their size and pervasive presence in retail grocery and other retail outlets, help to educate consumers about non-toxic alternatives, which in turn benefits Sun & Earth. Sun & Earth attends some consumer shows where they hand out samples but primarily works through distributors to the retail market. Sun & Earth expressed an interest in expanding to the west coast, if feasible. This company is an example of the challenges that a smaller company faces when working to take market share away from the larger, entrenched companies that market inorganic, toxic products.
Simple Green, another non-toxic general-purpose household cleaner manufacturer that markets its product by the same name, is headquartered in Huntington Harbor, California. The company has a line of 20 household cleaners and has been marketing them for more than 35 years. Simple Green® is used by many U.S. General Service Agency locations, and it is sold at military base commissaries. Often, families first use it while in the military, like the product, and continue to purchase it after leaving the military.
Simple Green® is a non-toxic biodegradable product with substantial test data and awards from the Better Business Bureau, US EPA, and the US Consumer Safety Product Commission, to name a few. Most of their distribution is through US retail and industrial purchases, but they have some international exposure. Most of their marketing is directly with large retailers, including Walmart, Sam’s Target, Ace, Lowes, Home Depot, Orchard Supply Hardware, Costco, Long’s, Pep Boys, Ralph’s, Gelsens, and Safeway.
The benefits for the solid waste stream are that Simple Green® is non-toxic, biodegradable, and sold in bulk/high concentrations for dilution; spray containers are reusable; and containers are made of recyclable content and are recyclable. The company believes that educating the consumer is key to their business. They attend some consumer shows and hand out samples at events such as street fairs, big trade shows, Susan B. Komen events, auto shows and races, hardware shows, Earth Day events, and beach clean-up events. Communities interested in Simple Green® should contact the Shows and Promotion Department to invite them to participate in an event.
Seventh Generation, a non-toxic alternative manufacturer headquartered in Vermont for the last 20 years, has focused on developing products for a healthy home and educating the consumer. They have chosen to use ingredients that are non-toxic, non-irritating, and biodegradable. While their products are designed to minimize the health and environmental hazards and risks associated with traditional cleaning products, they also understand the need to create a product that can perform as well, if not better, than the leading traditional cleaning product. Seventh Generation primarily sells their product through retailers, catalog and internet sales. Even though manufacturers are not required to disclose all of the cleaning ingredients on labeling, Seventh Generation firmly believes in this need and lists all of its ingredients along with a description of the ingredients’ purpose.
Ecover, a non-toxic alternative manufacturer founded in 1980 in Belgium and now located worldwide, believes it is important for local government agencies to educate their population. Promotion and awareness-building of using non-toxic products could include trade-in days where residents can exchange hazardous household products for non-toxic alternatives or coupons to receive free or discounted non-toxic alternatives at participating retailers. To entice retailers to participate, local governments could provide financial assistance to local retailers that switch from hazardous household products to non-toxic alternative products and/or that sell non-toxic alternative products at a discount. In conjunction, the company expressed an interest in providing samples of products to give to sellers or users to prove that they work without having to purchase them first.
Ecover is another example, like Sun & Earth Company, of a company that has not yet been able to win adequate market share with their products to be well known among consumers. This situation evidences the continuing high level of use of inorganic, toxic household products. Simple Green® is an example of one alternative product manufacturer that has made good progress with awareness-building and its presence in large retail chains are good evidence that it has built good sales volume. Green Works, being promoted by The Clorox Company, has good potential to take sales, primarily due to the market power that the Clorox Company has. The potential may exist for Clorox to give up a portion of its “shelf space” in retail chains that sell Clorox, in favor of the non-toxic alternative, if Clorox Company learns that the non-toxic alternatives are finding favor with consumers.