Compact detergents in China – A step towards more sustainable laundry A Life Cycle Assessment of four typical Chinese detergents
Chinese production and consumption of household detergents are growing rapidly, causing increased environmental impacts. The Chinese Cleaning Industry Association (CCIA) has identified representative ingredients lists for a standard and a compacted powder detergent, as well as for a standard and a compacted liquid detergent (1). The environmental impacts of a change towards the compacted detergents are studied using life cycle assessment (LCA). The study is being peer reviewed in accordance with ISO 14040. Environmental benefits are found on all studied impact categories. One conclusion is that the only situation where the environmental impacts from compaction are negative is if consumers do not reduce dosage but keep applying the same amount of detergent to their washing machine.
The Chinese detergent industry has been in rapid development since the 1980s. In the period from 1980 to 2010, the annual production of synthetic detergents has increased more than 20 times from 393,000 tons in 1980 to more than 8 million tons in 2010 (2). Meanwhile, as the consumer demand for detergent performance grows, so do expectations for improved environmental performance.
Previous studies have illustrated that there may be significant environmental benefits from the compaction of detergents sold in Europe and North America. The main drivers for these benefits are wash temperature reduction and surfactant reduction (Dewaele et al. 2006, Nielsen 2010) (3, 4), although Saoter et al. (5) also demonstrated the importance of decreased use of transport, packaging and storage space. Equivalent reductions may not be likely for Chinese detergents because temperature reduction is not relevant as laundry is usually washed in cold water in Chinese households and the surfactant content of Chinese detergents often differs from Western style detergents.
The compact detergent first appeared in China in 1985 when China Research Insti ...