Cleaning product labels
When choosing a cleaning product or disinfectant, it is important to consider not only its effectiveness and conditions of use, but also its environmental impact. Cleaning products can contain non-biodegradable chemicals, with uncertain or harmful effects on health and the environment. The NF Environnement label and the European Ecolabel distinguish products that contain no hazardous substances. This is the reason behind the requirement that 80% of cleaning products used in your establishment be environmentally certified, and that you give preference to all-purpose products instead of accumulating specific-use products.
There are several environmental labels for the cleaning products market (classed from least used to most often encountered).
1. Nature & Progrès
Nature & Progrès is an international federation of farm producers, cosmetics manufacturers and consumers, founded in 1964. For foodstuffs, cosmetics or cleaning products, the goal is to make products that respect the laws of nature and use as few artificial ingredients as possible.
Criteria for the Nature & Progrès label:
- all ingredients must be organic;
- Cleaning products are made from primary materials obtained via simple chemical or physical processes, without artificial molecules, scent or dye;
- Non-renewable ingredients, such as endangered plant species, are prohibited;
- Testing on animals, whether primary materials or finished products, is prohibited;
- Participating companies must sign the Nature & Progrès General Charter on environmental, social, economic and human issues;
- At least 70% of participating companies' product line must meet the Nature & Progrès requirements for certification.
This label is the most stringent, because it stipulates that 100% of product ingredients must be organic. In addition, the stipulation that 70% of the certified company's product line must meet the label requirements supports a global company policy, and not just a desire to boost the company's image.
ECOCERT is a private-sector inspection and certification body created in 1991. ECOCERT has drawn up terms of reference for "environmental detergents", and proposes requirements that are much more stringent than those of the European Ecolabel. Each product is verified at each life cycle stage.
ECOCERT label criteria:
- Renewable organic agriculture ingredients elaborated using environmentally friendly processes;
- Synthetic ingredients are prohibited, with the exception of a few given in a positive listing (must appear in the list);
- No petrochemical products, chlorine, optical brighteners or animal ingredients;
- No synthetic scents, colour or conservation agents;
- No products obtained from petroleum (paraffin, silicone, PEG), no GMOs or ionising treatment;
-Products are not tested on animals;
-Biodegradable or recyclable packaging.
3- NF Environnement
Although this repository refers to standards, in particular for specifications pertaining to fitness for use, the NF Environnement label is not a standard.
Its special feature is that it takes environmental impacts into account over the entire product life cycle, and as such integrates criteria that go well beyond the scope of technical specifications given in standards.
NF Environnement label criteria:
- Reduced energy consumption, reduced atmospheric emissions and discharges to water in the papermaking process;
- Limited amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other hazardous substances in inks, glues, and other products used in printing;
- Systematic treatment of all production waste (the production waste management plan must emphasise separate collection and materials recovery);
- Recyclable finished product (use of renewable or recycled materials).
The cleaning products that can be awarded this label are the following:
- Products to be dissolved or diluted;
- Glass cleaner fluids;
- Ready-made cleansers.
4- European Ecolabel
The Ecolabel is based on an "overall approach" that takes the product life cycle into account, from extraction of raw materials to final disposal, covering all intermediate stages of choice of materials, manufacturing, distribution, consumption and use. The environmental issues considered range from air and water quality, soil preservation, waste minimisation, energy savings and natural resource management, to mitigation of climate change, protection of the ozone layer, environmental safety, noise impacts and biodiversity.
European Ecolabel criteria
- Performance testing must be carried out to prove product efficacy;
- Glass cleaning fluids must have water content under 95%;
- Other cleansers must have water content under 90%;
Choose innocuous plant-based and/or natural ingredients;
Choose fragrances that comply with Ecolabel criteria and have low allergen content;
- Ensure that the product is readily biodegradable (OECD 301 and 302);
- Make sure that no danger symbol appears on the label;
- No undesirable ingredients (musks, formaldehyde, alkyl phenols, quaternary ammonium salts, environmental toxins, low level of allergens);
- No biocidal agents;
- Food colouring and dyes that are not environmentally prohibited can be included;
- Active ingredients of natural origin.
The cleaning products that can be awarded the European Ecolabel are the following:
- Dishwashing detergents;
- Detergents for industrial/institutional automatic dishwashers;
-Hand dishwashing liquids;
- Textile detergents;
- All-purpose cleaners and sanitary cleaners;
- Industrial or institutional-use textile detergents;
- Insecticides, germicides such chlorine bleach and prewash stain removers cannot receive Ecolabel certification.
Where can product composition information be found?
1. Product labelling
The first level of product information for users is found on the packaging label. The label indicates product hazards, specifies precautionary measures for product manipulation, use and storage, and the steps to be taken in case of accident;
2. Technical information sheet
This document provides further information, notably conditions and instructions for use (dosage, dilution, pH, safety measures). This sheet is furnished by the supplier.
3. Product safety data sheet (PSDS)
The PSDS is the product's ID card. It gives information on health and environmental risks associated with use of the product, on protective measures and what to do in case of emergency. It provides a summary of all health and environmental data for the product. These data are an essential source of product information and crucial for risk assessment.
- The supplier must furnish the PSDS in French when the product is first ordered, and any updates that are published (French Code du Travail, art. R. 4411-73).
- A copy of the PSDS must be given to the preventive medicine physician. In this way toxicological risks can be evaluated and advisories issued.
- The PSDS is updated at specified dates. Users must regularly check with the supplier to obtain updates.
The PSDS sections that are of interest to purchasers are the following:
- Section 3: Composition - information on ingredients Hazard ratings and classifications of
substances must be mentioned : hazard symbols (letters) and risk warnings
- Section 6: Instructions for manipulation, use and storage;
- Section 8: Limiting exposure – individual protective gear;
Sections 11 and 12: Toxicological and environmental data;
- Section 15: Regulatory information on product classification and labelling
Eco-label européen: qu'est-ce que c'est?
Eco-label européen: criteria repository, list of certified companies and businesses
NF-Environnement: qu'est-ce que c'est?
NF-Environnement: criteria repository, list of certified companies and businesses
For more information:
ADEME information sheets: Environmental markings on products / Memo: what markings for what products?
Hazard pictograms displayed on cleaning products: http://www.developpement-durable.gouv.fr/IMG/13108_Prod-chimiques_nouveaux-pictos-danger_def_light.pdf
1- Compile a list of all products used for housekeeping
2- Get information from suppliers of certified cleaning products: catalogue, technical description, price list and comparison; this task can be assigned to member of the cleaning staff
3- Review the cleaning process to limit the number and amount of products used: staff meeting to discuss current problems, outline possible solutions, plan product testing periods.
4- Staff training to explain the advantages of these products, especially in terms of health and the environment, and discuss preconceived notions and prejudices (e.g. a product that does not foam cannot clean well, etc.)
5- Sort through products in storage: unused products may be inadvertently kept for years.
Ecocertified products are generally more expensive at time of purchase. It is important, however, to think in terms of overall costs – purchase, cost of use, cost of waste treatment – in order to determine the actual cost of these products.
For example, concentrated products require less packaging, and generate savings in terms of waste management. Likewise, automatic dispensers avoid wastage, and also hold down waste treatment costs. Lesser amounts of hazardous substances in product composition reduces exposure, and limits the need for individual protective gear (these ingredients must be checked in the PSDS on a case-by-case basis).
Product A: €3 per litre at 5% dilution = €0.15 per litre of solution ready for use
Product B: €6 per litre at 0.5% dilution = €0.03 per litre of solution ready for use
Product B is thus less expensive to use.
1- Lesser health risks for staff and customers
2- Better air quality
3- Improved environmental indicators (CO2 emissions/water consumption and pollution/waste) pertaining to product manufacturing and use
1- Time devoted to information search, product testing
2- Time devoted consulting with housekeeping staff to improve cleaning procedures
3- Employees unwilling to change their habits, whence the need to involve staff in testing
4- Cost premium for environmentally certified products