Experts: Its high time our cleaning practices evolved

Khidmah’s soft services manager Shadi Akeel vehemently challenges existing cleaning practices, and urges the industry to move with times and change its habits

Shadi Akeel, soft services division manager, Khidmah.
Shadi Akeel, soft services division manager, Khidmah.

While the facilities management industry continues the race towards new technologies, sustainability, innovation and modern techniques; elements of the cleaning industry remains in the past.

Even with new technology being adopted in the market, there is still a lack of focus on the impact to our clients particularly in areas relating to health, wellbeing and the local environment.

It’s not uncommon to spot cleaners lugging large containers of sometimes harmful chemicals on site.

There is an age old perception in the region that you need to smell the chemicals used to clean, when in fact this can be contributing to ‘sick building syndrome’ for its inhabitants due to the presence of volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) and other harmful chemicals.

VOC’s are chemicals found in the built environment that become airborne and can be harmful to indoor air quality. VOC’s can be commonly found in some paints, carpets and especially in cleaning and sanitising products.

In fact, many sanitisers contain bleach which can cause irritation to building occupants along with other respiratory conditions, more so in children.

Another example of cleaning practices that include VOCs is seen in the use of aerosols in bathrooms and air fresheners. Many of these products still contain chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which is classified as a carcinogenic ingredient and is also harmful when vented into the atmosphere.

THE CRADLE-TO-CRADLE VERSUS THE CRADLE TO GRAVE CONCEPT

Traditionally, chemicals used in the cleaning industry follow a process referred to as ‘cradle to grave’. The focus during this process follows a philosophy in which we know certain chemicals can cause harm to people and the environment and then react to minimise their impact to building inhabitants. We do so by regulating production through transportation, storage, application and disposal.

A cradle-to-cradle approach on the other hand embraces a preventative philosophy in which harmful chemicals and toxins are not used to begin with — the concept is inspired by nature’s life cycle in which resources are used and recycled rather than depleted. Cradle-to-cradle uses nature’s existing processes in the application of cleaning products. This can be seen in the current trends such as the use of bacteria as a cleaning agent where it then produces enzymes to break down the affected ducts or pipes.

The second unique aspect of cradle-to-cradle cleaning is the focus on the by-product or waste produced after cleaning.

Disposal of cleaning consumables has massive impact on the environment and the ecosystem. Cradle-to-cradle results in less pollution and aids in sustainability, making the best of use of waste.

It uses a natural cleaning agent by harvesting bacteria just the way nature intended. The solution is flushed into the environment after the bacteria has broken down the soil and continues to enhance it.

This is evident in many new trends where sustainable cleaning agents can be disposed into a septic tank where live bacteria will break down the waste and turn it into grey water.

Khidmah joined forces with our suppliers to continuously update ourselves with the latest technological development in their various fields. Working closely with global research labs we are aiming for green and sustainable cleaning programmes, which will eventually contribute to enhancing the water in the sewage system and indoor air quality.

They have been willing to work alongside us to make the changes necessary with similar sustainability goals and core ‘green’ values, which pushes us all towards a more sustainable future. In fact, suppliers have not been hesitant to have their products independently assessed.

And the result is a glaring win for everyone, clearly showing that any product on the market today can have a smaller impact on the environment.

To support Khidmah’s Green Cleaning Strategy in the UAE, we began working on several case studies early in 2016 focused on delivering a healthy green cleaning programme, which resulted in changing our anti-bacterial hand soap and achieving tremendous savings on toilet amenities.

Human hands are the most active external body which are constantly in contact with objects, it is no surprise therefore that hand hygiene is recognised as a critical line of defence against the transmission of bacterial infection. Khidmah has been working with its suppliers on raising clients awareness on the necessity to reduce use of antimicrobial hand soaps and hand gel sanitisers.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on 2 September, 2016 announced a ban of most antimicrobial hand soaps due to the chemicals attacking not only bad bacteria but also good bacteria that our bodies rely on.

HERE IS THE CATCH!

The cost of deploying sustainable solutions is probably the biggest misconception we deal with in our industry on a day to day basis.

On the contrary Green cleaning programmes incredibly cut costs for both parties’ clients and service providers.

About the author: Shadi Akeel is the soft services division manager at Khidmah.

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