Two eco-innovation firsts from Ecover
by Tim Willmott : Be the first to leave a comment
Belgium’s Ecover is already widely known as a sustainability pioneer. The company’s products – laundry powder, washing-up liquid and soaps – are produced from less environmentally harmful ingredients, and are carried in greener packaging. The company also has a reputation as an innovator, and has recently claimed two eco-innovation “firsts”.
The first first is the development and use of algal oil as a substitute for palm oil in Ecover laundry liquid. Palm oil is widely used in many products, but is associated with clearance of tropical forest and its replacement with palm plantations. Ecover claims that algal oil is a low-impact alternative – the algae can be grown using sugarcane or other feedstocks.
Ecover International Product Manager Tom Domen said that algal oil “really is the most sustainable oil in all areas.” He added that “first of all it has a much lower greenhouse gas footprint because of its supply chain, how it is sourced. Secondly, the water usage to grow the algae is massively different to any other oil you find in the market, either renewable or fossil-based. Thirdly, it doesn’t compete with land usage, it doesn’t compete with food.”
Ecover also says that in principle algal oil can be sourced close to home – in Ecover’s case, close to its plant in Malle, close to Antwerp, Belgium. The algal oil could be produced in Belgium using agricultural or forest waste as the feedstock. To start with however, Ecover will bring algal oil from Brazil, where the algae is fed with sucrose from sugar cane.
Ecover will start later in 2014 to include 7% algal oil in its laundry liquid. It wants consumers to provide feedback on the product so the proportion of algal oil can be increased. Other soap and detergent companies, such as giant Unilever, are also looking into algal oil, and are testing new products that contain it.
Ecover’s second recent innovation is in packaging. It claims to be the first company to develop a bottle that uses recycled plastic recovered from the ocean. The initial run of bottles include only 10% recycled ocean plastic, and will be available in a limited number of stores, but Ecover says the bottle “represents a big step both in raising awareness of ocean plastic and also beginning the process of prevention and a much needed clean up in our oceans across the world.” There is a very long way to go however; the company estimates that every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of waste plastic, much of which is of microscopic size.
Ecover Belgium NV
Tel: +32 33092500