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How cleaning craze is damaging the environment

Friends of the Earth wants to encourage those who want a clean home to think about the cleanliness of the planet, too.

Says Julian Kirby, Friends of the Earth plastics campaigner “unfortunately too many cleaning products are packaged in single-use plastic – much of which won’t be recycled, and end up polluting our planet and harming our wildlife. Cleaning products can also contain things like bleach or phosphates that can be harmful to the environment.”

Phosphates, often found in detergents, have a fertilising effect for algae, which takes up oxygen in the water and kills off other sealife.

Bleach products can react with other minerals in water to create dangerous substances that take years to wash away. Those substances can be toxic for sealife but can also come back to bite us humans, aggravating sensitive skin and those with allergies.

In spray cleaners and air fresheners you’re likely to find hydrocarbons and compressed gases, which contribute to global warming and pollute our air.

Every cleaning product you use on your toilet, sink, on your dishes, and every other surface you scrub to perfection, will eventually be rinsed down your drain, where it’ll head to water treatment facilities, where it’s then pushed into rivers, lakes, and oceans. Not every chemical in those products will be removed at treatment centres, and will instead end up in our water sources. A small amount wouldn’t be a massive problem, but if we’re all significantly upping our use of these products and the frequency with which we clean, that’ll increase the contaminants ending up in our water, affecting ocean life.

Then there are the wipes cleaning fans use to swipe away grime on their toilet seats and kitchen counters. Again, they’re covered with all those harsh chemicals, but also typically contain plastics which take decades to break down. Whether you flush them or chuck them in the bin, they’re an environmental disaster, causing fatbergs, ending up on our beaches, and polluting the sea.

And, of course, the packaging. The majority of cleaning products come in plastic containers that are chucked after use. They’re often difficult to recycle and have a high proportion of packaging to contents. If the packaging of a cleaning product is thrown in the recycling bin without being properly washed (so it’s clean of those harsh chemicals we mentioned), it could end up diverting an entire load of recycling to the landfill thanks to the risk of contamination.

Obviously the more often you clean, the more of these products you use. That means more chemicals and more packaging. With the cleaning craze encouraging us to have stacks of bleach and squeaky clean sprays, all neatly packaged in colourful containers that look snazzy enough for the ‘gram, it’s taking us down a pretty damaging environmental path.

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