Historic cotton mill

Taking a traditional approach to sustainability

Sustainability. A word on the lips of so many industries and one that has evaded the janitorial sector for too long.

More and more, our distributors and end users are looking to increase the range of sustainable cleaning products they use to help reduce their business’ impact on the environment. Using less plastic waste, chemicals, and energy are all top priorities, but it can be difficult for organisations to know where to start.

And as a designer, manufacturer and distributor of products for the janitorial market, we’ve become increasingly aware of our own plastic waste and how we can create products focused on sustainable innovation.

There’s more to our mops
That’s why we’ve set our sights on our core offering of traditional cleaning products such as mops, brooms and cloths – products that are used day-in-day-out and which aren’t often associated with being typically ‘green’.

Take our Robert Scott’s mops, manufactured here in the UK at our mills in the north west of England, are also made using sustainably-sourced materials. The cotton used in the mop heads is sourced from waste produced during the spinning process, again giving a use for a material that would otherwise be disposed of.

For a more sustainable approach to traditional mopping we’ve designed the patented Refill socket mop. This means you only need to dispose of the mop yarn while re-using the plastic socket, which are also made here in the UK. The Refill socket can be cleaned and reused hundreds of times, and is colour coded to prevent cross-contamination, making mopping more hygienic, cost-effective and eco-friendly.

When we made the decision to sell a range of wooden brushware that’s made from sustainable sources, we felt that the best way we could achieve this was by supplying products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC), which helps take care of forests and the people and wildlife who call them home.

Our floor and dish cloths are also made using recycled shredded clothing, which means we are diverting textile waste from landfill and giving it another use.

Recycled packaging
Packaging is one of the biggest offenders in all sectors, not just in the janitorial market. According to The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), the amount of plastic waste generated annually in the UK is estimated to be nearly 5 million tonnes, 40% of which comes from plastic packaging – it’s clear that there is an issue with how much single-use plastic is being used to package products.

With this in mind, we are currently looking at how we package our products for distributors and customers to source sustainable alternatives and reduce unnecessary plastic waste.

That’s why we’ve recently started to roll out a new biodegradable wrap to protect and package items. This reduces the life of the packaging – an important step towards finding new ways to reduce the environmental impact of packaging waste.

We’ve also looked at how we can recycle and reuse materials that would otherwise go to landfill; and that’s why we’ve recently launched an eco-friendly and reusable spray bottle that’s made out of discarded milk bottles and replaces the need for single-use plastic bottles (which are often made out of virgin materials).

The 100% recycled and 100% recyclable high-density polyethene (r-HDPE) spray bottles are also manufactured in the UK and use less energy to produce than traditional bottles made from virgin resin.

Designed for multi-use, they can be refilled by the end user or recycled again into car parts, pipes and clothing, supporting a closed loop recycling system. This means less waste at the end of the day while helping to reduce the UK’s plastic waste economy.

Chemical-free cleaning
But it’s not only plastic that poses a threat to our environment. The issue of chemical use, particularly in the cleaning sector, is one that we need to take stock of.

Not only are chemicals harmful to our eco-system, but they are also harmful to the end-user. A study conducted in 2018 by Norway’s Bergen University found that lung function for professional cleaners significantly declined over a 20-year period when compared to those that clean at home.

That’s why we’re continuing to develop our Toucan Eco® bio-cleaning range – a sustainable and chemical-free disinfectant and cleaning solution for businesses, which removes the need for 80% of chemical cleaning products while significantly reducing the single use plastic bottles they are supplied in and cutting costs.

Being 100% non-toxic, non-hazardous and non-allergenic to humans and animals, while also killing 99.999% of bacteria, Toucan Eco also reduces the health risks to end users.

The system requires only two ingredients – table salt and tap water – which are electrochemically activated by applying a small electrical current using a specialised electrolysis cell. This produces hypochlorous acid – an effective disinfectant, and sodium hypochlorite, which is a robust cleaning agent.

Cleaning with a conscience
As a fourth-generation family business we’ve always had close ties with local communities. That’s why in 2018, we launched our Cleaning up your Community competition, which has provided more than £1,000 worth of cleaning supplies (not to mention our own team’s elbow grease) to some fantastic community groups across the country, helping them to keep the areas they love clean and tidy for all to enjoy.

Closer to home, we’re also funding the build of a new school for children with autism on land next to our head office and mill in Greenfield for Bright Futures School. We’re very much looking forward to the site opening in early 2020 and seeing the difference it will make to pupils, staff and their families.

Whether you’re looking to make small changes to your everyday cleaning processes with sustainably-sourced and manufactured traditional products, or you’re considering an overhaul of your cleaning system with innovation such as Toucan Eco, it’s important to remember that you are making steps to change.

If we can all do something, no matter how big or small, we can work towards making a positive change for our industry and securing the future of this planet.