When you see the word “Biodegradable” on a cleaning product label, it feels good to know you have made a choice that will benefit the environment.
Biodegradability means the contents of the cleaner you chose will break down quickly and naturally without causing harm to people or the environment, right? Unfortunately the truth is not so straight forward.
Some product information can be misleading but it is possible to distinguish which cleaning products are safe from the ones that simply market themselves that way. Here are five ways to tell the difference.
Is the Product Readily Biodegradable?
Every material eventually breaks down, whether this takes 30 days or 300 years, so saying something is biodegradable isn’t meaningful unless you also know the timeframe.
The term “Readily Biodegradable” is more relevant, because it means that substances in the product will break down within 28 days.
Does it comply with Australian or International Standards?
The criteria for Readily Biodegradable are set out in the Australian Standard AS4351. The equivalent international standards are OECD 301A-301E and ISO 7827. A company claiming compliance with any of these standards is legally required to have their products tested independently.
Is the Whole Product Readily Biodegradable?
Products are allowed to claim Ready Biodegradability compliance to AS4351 for just one of their ingredients, even if it makes up as little as 5% of the total.
It’s important to look for “Whole Product Readily Biodegradable” because this means all the ingredients will break down within 28 days.
Is the Product Low Harm?
Ready Biodegradability does not, in itself, make cleaning products low risk and low harm.
Known and suspected toxic substances that cause serious harm to humans including carcinogens and reproductive toxins are still found in a wide range of cleaning products, as are substances which pollute soil and water.
Can I see the SDS?
An SDS (Safety Data Sheet) must be provided to anyone purchasing cleaning products for a business or organisation. It contains information about the substances in the product including the health hazards, toxic effects and ecological risks associated with their use.
The SDS gives you lots more information about cleaning products than what is found on the label and will help you make purchasing decisions that protect you, the people you work with and our planet.
And that’s something you can really feel good about.
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