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Building Operating Management

The Environmental Impacts of Cleaning Products

By Stephen Ashkin May 2009 - Green   Article Use Policy

Cleaning products and processes affect the environment in many ways. Commercial and institutional buildings in the U.S. annually consume 6.2 billion pounds of chemicals, 4.5 billion pounds of sanitary paper (about 30 million trees), and 1 billion pounds of janitorial equipment.

The raw materials used to make the 6.2 billion pounds of chemicals used each year to clean commercial buildings in the U.S. mostly consist of petroleum, a valuable, but limited and nonrenewable natural resource. Additionally, the environment is affected during manufacturing as significant amounts of energy and water are consumed, and waste is produced.

Other environmental impacts include plastic packaging components used in bottles made from petroleum and ingredients such as phthalates used to keep the bottles from becoming brittle and breaking or leaking. Packaging also includes cardboard shipping cartons made from tree fibers. Finally, chemical products are disposed down the drain or evaporate into the air where they have further environmental impacts.

One final environmental impact is the disposal of approximately 1 billion pounds of janitorial equipment and supplies including vacuum cleaners, floor machines, mop buckets, entry mats and more. Not only does the disposal of these items equate to approximately 40,000 garbage truck loads clogging landfills, but replacement materials require additional raw materials to make the plastic, metal and other components; energy and water is consumed during manufacturing; and so on.





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