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Toxic Chemicals and a Circular Economy: Naturally Incompatible

Many of today’s environmental problems stem from the industrial revolution mindset of “take, make, waste”. This mindset got us where we are today, but our planet is at a tipping point with climate change and pollution.

Most of us are in agreement that we need to recycle more and create a circular economy where we design out waste and pollution and keep products and materials in use. It makes sense to be sustainable in all our activities.

However, there is a toxic conundrum – the products we are recycling are often made using toxic and harmful chemicals. Toxic chemicals and a circular economy are naturally incompatible.

A Toxic Conundrum

There is a problem with our vision of the circular economy, and that is that most materials and products are manufactured with toxic chemicals. These are not recyclable and stay in the loop indefinitely with recycling.  

New research by Chemsec highlights this exact issue. Their extensive report “What goes around” reveals that toxic substances are supressing recycling rates and reducing recycling efficiency. It plainly states: “If chemicals of concern were more efficiently addressed, the market for recycled materials would increase.”

The report provides evidence that:

  • A circular economy is far from being realised.
  • The presence of chemicals of concern is a leading reason for this.
  • Chemicals of concern must be designed out of products.
  • There is a substantial market opportunity for recyclable materials.

The Problem with Toxic Substances

Our reliance on toxic chemicals stretches from plastics and fabrics to food additives and cleaning products. These chemicals are mostly not biodegradable so pile up and accumulate in the environment where they can cause damage.

During recycling, toxic chemicals remain in the loop. They accumulate and stay in materials over repeated cycles. They do not degrade or breakdown. Their constituent parts are always there like an annoying skin tag.

This means that even if we start recycling with 100% efficiency, we are still recycling toxic chemicals. This needs to change because what good is recycling if we are using chemicals of concern? We need to “reuse, reduce, recycle” in a harmless, safer way.

Probiotic Products are Leading the Way

Chemicals of concern are frighteningly prevalent in cleaning products, pet care products and personal hygiene products. These chemicals always enter the environment at some point, whether down your drain or into the ground after shampooing your dog’s coat. An alternative to these chemicals is non-toxic alternatives, which include ‘good’ bacteria called probiotics.

You may know probiotics best as the healthy bacteria in Yakult and other brands of probiotic drink. However, probiotic benefits go way beyond your gut.

Probiotics are living bacteria that naturally outcompete and consume potentially harmful ‘bad’ bacteria for food and energy. They establish a healthy microbiome (the balance of micro organisms living in an environment) wherever they are used. And because they are living organisms, they continue to work for up to three days after use.

We can apply this natural process to a wide range of products, including interior cleaning spray, air optimiser spray and pet shampoo.

All our probiotic cleaning products and hand soaps are also effective against viruses, including Coronavirus. They keep hands and surfaces clean without introducing harmful chemicals.

All packaging is recyclable and made using ocean recycled plastic. Certification includes Luxembourg’s ‘clever shopping’ eco-certificate Clever Afaken for low environmental impact and circular economy, Green Seal for environmental responsibility and Ecocert Greenlife for sustainable development.

The Bottom Line

A circular economy is not a pipedream and it is perfectly reasonable to work towards a world where “reuse, reduce, recycle” is the norm.

However, to do so, we need to banish chemicals of concern. We need to see action in material science and design out chemicals from the products we make. This way, we can mass recycle materials that do not put harmful chemicals back into circulation.

This represents a significant market opportunity. Probiotics are one solution to the problem, replacing chemicals in wet products like cleaning sprays. Contact us to find out more.