The pioneer of eco cleaning

These cleaning products come in the UK’s first recycled plastic bottles and ‘work as well as their nasty competitors’

Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod

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Published: 3 September 2021

This Article was Written by: Katie Hill - My Green Pod

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This article first appeared in our ‘Why organic is the answer’ issue of My Green Pod Magazine, distributed with The Guardian on 03 September 2021. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

‘It was right about the time the documentary Blue Planet I was released. I was in Italy, on the coast, watching a woman pour dirty cleaning water down a storm drain. The reality of how damaging cleaning products were to the environment seemed so obvious to me, and I thought: I need to go and do something that is good for me, and for my soul, and for the world. So Delphis Eco was born.’

Back in 2007 Mark Jankovich, CEO of Delphis Eco, had a simple aim: to take eco-friendly cleaning to the masses.

In the early years the sector’s biggest challenge was the broad consensus that eco cleaning products did not clean as well as their mainstream, chemically loaded competitors, so Mark focused on converting the professional cleaning sector first.

‘I needed to create a product that worked in the very toughest of environments while also being kinder to the planet’, he tells us.

Today, Delphis Eco offers the UK’s first wholly sustainable, professional-strength cleaning product range that is still formulated with marine life in mind.

The certified B Corp pioneered the first 100% recycled plastic bottle and was the first UK manufacturer to receive EU Ecolabel accreditation.

The products are so effective that they are the only ecological cleaning brand to hold two Royal Warrants – from both HM the Queen and HRH the Prince of Wales – and the products are used everywhere from hospitals to palaces.

Plant-based power

Delphis Eco products are as easy to use as their mainstream competitors, but get the job done without the unnecessary toxins.

The entire range is biodegradable and developed from plant-based ingredients such as sugar beet, sugar cane, natural citrus and rapeseed oil. ‘The UK produces millions of tonnes of sugar beet each year’, Mark explains.

‘When you ferment sugar beet, or any sugary root stock, it produces the disinfectant lactic acid plus bi-ethanol, the active ingredient in a high-performing sustainable product.’

The Delphis Eco Anti-Bacterial Sanitiser and Cleaner kills 99.999% of germs and bacteria, and is approved by EN standards EN1276, EN13697, EN1650 and EN14476, which prove kill rates against viruses and bacteria.

Delphis Eco is also proven to kill enveloped viruses such as coronavirus.

The range is free from carbon-intensive ingredients, harsh chemicals and any nasty toxins that can have long-term health effects for users.

For Mark, there is no excuse for any cleaning product to contain ingredients that are toxic and don’t biodegrade; ‘if we can do it then every major brand can, and absolutely should’, he tells us. ‘Currently there is no legal obligation to stop using harsh chemicals and nasties. For instance, Britain has yet to outlaw bleach, even though it’s banned from use across Europe and the personal and environmental impacts are well documented.’

How to avoid greenwash

Demand for natural cleaning products is growing, and companies are trying to keep up with demand.

If you want to avoid greenwash in the sector, Mark advises looking for independent accreditations and finding out where the product was made.

‘Check for EU Ecolabel and B Corp’, Mark advises. ‘These two accreditations will mean your eco cleaning product works as well as traditional cleaners, that it is possibly vegan and cruelty free and that the company itself is championing people and the planet. The ‘Made in Britain’ accreditation is important because it means the cleaning product has not been shipped halfway around the world.’

Other things to look out for are colours and scents, both of which biodegrade very slowly, and virgin plastic bottles with triggers that can’t be recycled. ‘What a waste of time for consumers who believe they are cleaning green’, Mark says. ‘They end up disappointed with the result and have actually made a net-negative impact.’

The ‘holy grail of greenness’

All Delphis Eco’s commercial customers buy concentrated products and refill and reuse on site; a 5l Anti-Bacterial Sanitiser is enough for 166 trigger bottle refills.

All bottles are made from 100% recycled plastic; this was something Mark wanted from the start, so he chased down waste collectors, rubbish dumps and plastic suppliers – only to be told his dream wasn’t possible.

Mark found a small, supportive business that was recycling London’s plastic milk bottles, but the company inconveniently went bust.

This left Mark with an even stronger desire to succeed – and the idea to reuse ‘home-grown’ waste products rather than plastics that had been sent round the world to be processed.

‘In the circular economy, keeping production in the UK is the holy grail of greenness’, Mark says. ‘Of course, waste collection firms thought I was mad, but when they realised I was serious they agreed to separate used milk bottles for me.’

Delphis Eco’s bottle blower also needed convincing, as he felt the quality of the plastic wasn’t good enough to go into his plant.

After several conversations around molecule length, Mark persevered and opted to make the bottles slightly thicker.

‘Sure, they are slightly heavier as a result’, he tells us, ‘but UK recycling and manufacture means zero carbon miles, which far outweighs the emissions cost of importing recycled materials from China.’

Pioneering perseverance

As a pioneer in the eco cleaning – and ethical business – sector, Mark’s journey has involved some ‘interesting learnings’. He discovered that the whole recycling arena is ‘one of smoke and mirrors’, where current packaging waste regulations essentially incentivise companies to watch plastic waste being exported to poorer nations for recycling.

‘Given the UK is fast running out of landfill space, it’s no surprise the government is happy to see plastic sent abroad’, Mark says. ‘But we are not fooling anyone if we think recycling facilities in Indonesia, Vietnam or India are more efficient than they are here. Thousands of miles away, mountains of rubbish are building up – and being burned – so we don’t have to deal with the problem.’

Perseverance has also proved an important trait; ‘When it comes to the environment, you encounter plenty of old world thinking’, Mark says. ‘Asking to do new stuff in different ways will typically be met with a shake of a head or a sharp intake of breath; the secret is to have thick skin and a total belief that you are doing the right thing.’

Mark has pushed boundaries and changed opinions by convincing suppliers to work with Delphis Eco – mostly by paying more to get the technology up and running and showing how it will be financially beneficial for everyone in the long run.

He has always made the tough decisions from the start, rather than waiting for shoppers to demand change. As an example, Delphis Eco uses the world’s most ethical printer to produce training guides and information sheets.

‘It costs slightly more but it is a choice we made’, Mark tells us. ‘If every other business followed, prices would fall and infrastructure behind eco ideas like refill stations would become more accessible.’

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