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Bottle-free biotech

These concentrated cleaning products clean your home using enzymes
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Bottle-free biotech

This article first appeared in our COP26 issue of My Green Pod Magazine, distributed with The Guardian on 05 November 2021. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

Many mainstream cleaning products carry a warning that they are harmful to all aquatic life, with long-lasting effects. It’s impossible to believe we can use them regularly – all over the world – without adversely affecting our oceans and the life they support.

‘In the early part of 2021 we realised the market was missing a great-performing and eco-friendly cleaning product range’, says Ant McCourt, co-founder of MACK. ‘It was then we decided to co-develop our commercial range for the domestic market’, adds co-founder Ian Millar.

Up until this point, Ian and Ant had faced a dilemma that might sound familiar: the choice of cleaning products was restricted to big names and supermarket offerings that aren’t good for people or planet, or the expensive brands that can disappoint on the performance side. ‘There always seemed to be a trade-off’, Ian explains, ‘and we knew with our products that was no longer the case.’

Fill your own bottles

MACK was founded in 2019, and the commercial cleaning products that preceded the domestic range are still used in industrial settings. They are a popular choice in the hospitality sector and are even found on the boats used by Sea Shepherd, the marine conservation society.

Today the carbon-neutral business also sells all the products you might need to clean your home – a multi-surface cleaner, de-scaler, floor cleaner, sanitiser and even a degreaser – but only in concentrated form, and never with a bottle.

You can buy a trigger head from MACK ‘if you absolutely have to’ and attach it to one of the many empty bottles you almost certainly already have in the house.

‘Reduction of our reliance on single-use plastic is a central tenet of the business’, Ant tells us, ‘and there’s a multi-faceted rationale. Obviously there’s a cost saving to us – which means ultimately to the customer – when existing assets are reused.’

‘We all complain about the ubiquity of single-use plastic, so now we can act in a positive manner and do something about it’, Ian adds. ‘Manufacturers will keep producing plastic if we keep buying it – directly or indirectly.’

Each MACK product is shipped in a 500ml flask with a one-way valve that ensures the correct dose when you make the product up at home. When the dose has been added to your bottle, top it up with cold water, attach a trigger spray head, apply the pre-supplied label and you’re good to go.

The different products come in bright colours that make them easy to identify if labels aren’t used; the colourants are natural and allow Ian and Ant to avoid the chemical stabilisers required to keep products clear. ‘We don’t want to add more chemistry’, Ant explains.

Embracing biotech

There’s enough science going on in this range already; the efficacy of the products is down to bacteria, harvested from Canadian forests, which create the enzymes that are essential for the cleaning action.

‘The bacteria within the products are dormant until ‘woken’ by diluting the concentrate with cold water’, Ian explains. ‘Then they act as little Pac-Men that ingest the dirt, grease and grime.’

Biotech cleaning products have been commercially available for nearly 20 years. Due to their highly concentrated nature they aren’t the quickest selling products on the market, so most businesses that sell cleaning products prefer to stock pre-diluted formulations that are used at a much quicker rate and generate bigger returns.

‘By selling concentrates you are in effect cannibalising your revenue’, Ant tells us. ‘As a business, we decided we wanted good customers but bad consumers; it’s about making a living and not a killing.’

Doing the right thing

‘I do believe that manufactures have a responsibility to produce more eco-friendly products’, Ian says, ‘but why should they? People keep buying their products, so until that stops and starts hitting their bottom line, they’ll carry on regardless.’

Transporting water emits 62g of CO2 per tonne per km, and most cleaning products contain over 90% water. By selling concentrates and encouraging reuse, Ian and Ant have created eco-friendly products that work out to be 60p per bottle when diluted.

‘I don’t think we’re challenging the idea that eco products are much more expensive’, Ian says; ‘we’d say we actually prove that doing the right thing shouldn’t cost you any more.’

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