Step 3 – Manage your cleaning operations to minimize environmental impacts
Most of the environmental impact of cleaning arises or is determined during the cleaning operation itself. So while buying the right products and equipment is a key step, it’s only part of the job done.
Some impacts arise directly during cleaning, for example when using energy to heat water or power machines. This consumes fuel resources, and unless the energy comes from renewable or nuclear sources, will release corresponding amounts of CO2 which can impact climate change.
Other impacts which arise, for example from use of resources to make products and packaging, are ultimately also determined when the product is used. These hinge on whether products are dosed correctly - overdosing immediately multiplies all the intrinsic impacts in the product pro rata. If machines are not correctly adjusted or operated this can give rise to re-work which doubles all the impacts that should arise in cleaning those items. If products and waste packaging are not properly disposed of, or recycled, there may be unnecessary impacts on the environment.
Managing cleaning for sustainability
The first and vital step in ensuring your cleaning operations are sustainable is to buy the right products, tools and equipment for the job. Define the performance standard that needs to be met for each cleaning task and, with the help of suppliers, select a combination that reliably delivers the required result in the most sustainable way.
For most cleaning operations, it is important for sustainability to buy concentrated products. This can not only make massive savings in packaging, particularly where use dilutions are low, but there can be similar savings in transport, meaning less fuel consumed and less CO2 emitted.
Concentrated products demand accurate dosing, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The more concentrated the product, the more accurate the system needs to be, but the bigger the improvement in sustainability. There is a range of dosing options to suit different requirements
From the economic sustainability point of view, it’s important to optimize cost-effectiveness, not just minimize cost. Products that are cheap in quantity terms may be very expensive if they lead to poor quality cleaning, re-work, customer dissatisfaction or hygiene failure.
It’s essential the process gets things clean to the required standard, first time, every time. If re-cleaning is sometimes necessary, analyze those re-work rates and put in place quality assurance procedures to reduce and eliminate them. Your cleaning product supplier should be able to advise and suggest product variations, equipment adjustment and appropriate maintenance schedules to obtain the desired result, first time, every time.
Regular servicing is particularly important for automatic dosing equipment. Properly maintained, automated dosing of concentrated products delivers major improvements in sustainability, but inaccurate dosing starts to fritter away these benefits. Overdosing leads to waste and excessive cost; underdosing leads to poor cleaning, re-work, customer dissatisfaction and potentially hygiene failure.
Last, but by no means least, it’s vital for all aspects of sustainability – social, environmental and economic – that staff are appropriately trained. The more complex the process and the more critical the cleaning operation, the more important good training becomes. Some cleaning product manufacturers offer staff training as part of an integrated service to the customer. Alternatively, the British Institute of Cleaning Science offers a wide range of accredited training courses in cleaning operation and management. Training should be provided in different languages as appropriate.
For more complex cleaning operations, cleaning product manufacturers often provide a complete cleaning package including the supply and maintenance of all products and equipment, tailored cleaning programmes and servicing schedules, training of staff and oversight of the process with full quality assurance.