P&G to End Use of Phosphates in Laundry Detergents

Procter & Gamble plans to end the use of phosphates in all of its laundry detergents in the next two years, a move that will benefit waterways in developing countries.

The Guardian reports that the company stopped using phosphates in laundry detergent sold in the US in the early 1990s as part of a voluntary commitment from the American Cleaning Institute. P&G eliminated phosphates from detergents sold in Europe several years ago, according to the Guardian.

Phosphates, which are used in powdered detergents to soften hard water, can cause algae blooms, low oxygen levels and even fish deaths when they makes it into waterways. This latest commitment will focus on detergents sold in developing countries that don’t have regulations limiting phosphates in detergents.

Pressure on companies to end the use of phosphates in detergents and other products has steadily increased over the past several decades when the public first became aware of the environmental effect it has on lakes, rivers and other waterways.

For instance, Cintas, in conjunction with Washing Systems, began a company-wide transition in 2012 to a laundry detergent called Structure that uses components free of phosphates and ethylene diamine tetra-acetic acid, which have been found in some instances to alter the oxygen and metal levels found naturally in the environment.

Other green companies such as Seventh Generation have never used phosphates in detergents.

In 2011, Whole Foods launched its own rating system for cleaning products it sells, and established standards for personal care products such as shampoo and detergents. The chain’s Eco-Scale Rating System for cleaning products uses a color-coded rating system to evaluate the environmental performance and sourcing of each item.

Cleaning products have to meet at least the “orange standard” to be carried at Whole Foods, and products have to list all ingredients on product packaging. The orange standard precludes phosphates, chlorine, artificial colors, animal testing and preservatives that can release formaldehyde.