1. Why are Local Governments Opposing Synthetic Detergents Now!?
−Nationwide Local Government Questionnaire−
|Synthetic detergents are bad for the human health. Synthetic detergents are not good for the environment. Such misconceptions are prevalent even today in printed matter and on the internet.
Many people who make such statements are not able to get reliable information, blindly believe mistaken information, and base their beliefs on incorrect information. Some may firmly believe such statements and are actively working to promote their beliefs.
The fact that such misconceptions and mistaken information continue to circulate, however, is a problem, given that (1) local governments are promoting their circulation, (2) local governments are drafting plans to ban the use of detergents, and (3) local governments are promoting the use of soaps with public money.
■ A close to 60% response rate from local governments throughout Japan
The JSDA has been engaging in PR activities with local governments in order to encourage the circulation of reliable information to consumers. The JSDA implemented a survey among local governments recently in order to gain a better understanding of local governmentsユ stances.
The survey was distributed to 769 local governments (47 prefectural and 722 municipal) throughout Japan between September and October 2005. Of those, 432 governments (35 prefectural and 397 municipal) responded, for a response rate of 56%.
The survey asked: 1) whether the governments had activities or measures against the use of synthetic detergents or to promote the use of soap; 2) if so, what were the budgets to support such activities; 3) whether there were citizens' or group activities based on those guidelines; and 4) if the governments had any opinions for the JSDA.
Of the 432 local governments that responded, 91% reported they do not have official guidelines. Two percent reported abolished guidelines, and the remaining 7 percent (30 local governments) claimed they do have guidelines in place. Ten local governments with guidelines and 20 governments without guidelines claimed to have a budget for their activities.
■ Defining 'guidelines' and issues
The 30 local governments with guidelines in place developed those guidelines in response to the 'Lake Biwa incident.' In 1980, Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture was found to be eutrophicated. This was believed to be caused by synthetic detergents, some of which contained phosphorus. Thereafter, the government banned the use of all synthetic detergents and introduced measures to encourage a switch to powdered soaps. The local governments actively began developing their own guidelines, following Shiga Prefecture.
Many of today's guidelines were drafted at that time and remain in place, while others were drawn up afterwards, while still others have been revised and continue to be implemented today. Guidelines drafted for detergents containing phosphates remain in place today, though they may no longer be relevant. Others have been revised, but remain based on incorrect information and are being funded with public money. Both cases are problematic.
■ Outdated, inappropriate guidelines
Though these guidelines may differ somewhat in the phrases used and such, they all essentially ban synthetic detergents (or phosphorus-containing detergents), promote the use of soaps, and support soap made with waste oil and other projects.
In Japan, synthetic detergents have caused foaming problems in the past, and some researchers have asserted that synthetic detergents are harmful. However, this was all between 1965 and 1970, but in 1983, the Ministry of Health and Welfare announced the results of an extensive government research that showed that detergents are not harmful.
Thereafter, detergent makers made the switch to highly-biodegradable LAS and quickly switched to developing non-phosphate detergents. They carried out a number of surveys to gauge the impact on the environment, and have concluded that the problem has been solved. However, even after phosphorus was removed from detergents, the concentration of phosphorus in Lake Biwa has not declined. The industry now claims that eutrophication is the result of more comprehensive causes and that it was a mistake to blame it solely on detergents.
■ Implication of Survey results
Today's generation of consumers, administrators, and the media does not recall the incidents of the past. Therefore, the JSDA feels obliged, based on the result of the survey, that it is important to educate and communicate with the public using correct information.
The Framework Act on Consumers revised in 2004 strives to ensure consumers' opportunities to make voluntary and rational choices. It also seeks to ensure global interaction on promoting consumer policy. Thus, if it respects the results of the OECD LAS environmental impact assessment, it would be clear that Japanese practices are inconsistent with international understanding and the guidelines.
Further, the Framework stipulates that it is the obligation of local governments to develop policies based on national policy. If the national government has concluded that the use of detergents is not a problem, then local governments with their own guidelines counter to that finding is incongruous. Should they not reassess their own stances?
2. Detergent Technology Keeps Pace with Changing Laundry Practices
JSDA Technical Committee Masaki Tsumatori
|● Changes around laundry practices
Japanese society as a whole is undergoing huge changes, from the declining childbirth and graying trends to the advancement of women in society. Consumer needs are also changing to reflect these societal changes. Makers of daily necessaries must respond to such changes in order to keep pace.
The detergent industry, in addressing consumer changes, must also look at changes in washing machines. Over the past 10 years, both consumer awareness and washing machines have undergone significant changes. Washing machine capacities have increased, they have become more water-efficient, washing cycle time has shortened, and the machines have become quieter. Such changes are also related to the new types of machines-- drum-type washers and combination washer/dryers-- that have been introduced. Laundry practices have also changed, with more households re-using bath water and doing their laundry in the evenings. Both washing machine technology and laundry habits have changed considerably, and detergents must likewise change in response to these trends.
Here, we discuss some of the technical changes affecting detergents in Japan.
● Technological changes with detergents
*InThe use of non-ionic surfactants on the rise
Concentrated (powder) detergents have gained rapid popularity since making their world debut in Japan in 1987. At present, nearly all powder detergents are concentrated (powder) detergents. The use on non-ionic surfactants has increased as they offer greater cleaning power with fewer surfactants.
*Developing more easily-dissolvable powder detergents
Washing machine agitation has become softer in order to treat clothing more gently. Further, the water-to-laundry ratio has shrunk and washing machine cycles have shortened by 7 or 8 minutes. Such changes in laundry practices have required the development of powder detergents that dissolve more easily.
Researchers have been working on a number of approaches in order to increase solvability, including improving the surfactants themselves as well as the particle structure of detergents.
Researchers are examining how much they can lower dissolution temperatures in developing ways to improve solvability of anionic surfactants at lower temperatures while maintaining cleaning power. A technology has been developed introducing branched-chain alkyl surface or alkyl benzene surfactants with short chain length alkyls while maintaining the alkyl chain length of their linear materials. This is in order to maintain cleaning power.
A new technology has been developed to improve the physical structure of detergent particles by bypassing the previous thickening/concentrating process, because thickening and concentrating reduces the solvability of particles. The key to the technology is developing basic ingredients made only of the builder ingredient, and then later filling in the air gaps between the particles with surfactants. The result is an extremely concentrated powder detergent that has bypassed the thickening/concentrating process.
*Developing new enzymes and bleaching agents
New detergents with extra value added, such as bleaching power, have been developed. Here, we will discuss highly-effective detergents formulated with enzymes and bleaching agents.
Detergents are formulated with enzymes in order to break down protein and sebum and increase the cleaning power. An enzyme called cellulase works with cotton fibers in order to lift dirt from within fibers. Detergent enzymes have the following key characteristics: 1) they are highly active even in detergent liquids with weak alkalinity; 2) they are highly effective even in low temperatures; 3) they are highly effective in breaking down a wide range of dirt and stains; and 4) they are not harmful to fibers.
In the past, we have discovered such new enzymes in nature. We have now developed a number of new ways to improve existing enzymes using the most recent biotechnologies.
*Improving enzymes through biotechnology
Site-specific mutagenesis and random mutagenesis based on evolution molecular engineering are available to greatly increase the performance and functions of the enzymes. Such technologies allow researchers to design enzymes with the capabilities and functions desired.
*Detergents formulated with bleaching agents
Approximately 40% of powder detergents in Japan are formulated with bleaching agents. Bleaching agents whiten laundry by removing sebum and stains and, as a result, also make colored laundry more vivid.
Sodium percarbonate and sodium perborate are used as the bleaching ingredients. For improved bleaching power in recent years, bleach activators such as phenyl ether derivatives have also come into use. The newest detergents with bleaching agents not only boast strong cleaning and whitening powers, they are also highly effective at killing germs.
Bleach activators react to hydrogen peroxide ions and produce organic peracid, which has strong bleaching properties. The key point in designing bleach activators is to efficiently produce a number of organic peracids by competitively reacting to hydrogen ions, which are found in relatively greater quantities than hydrogen peroxide ions. It is also important to develop hydrophobic groups (lipophilic groups), which are highly effective against a variety of different stains.
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We are trying to develop revolutionary new technologies and products to make household chores like laundry and cleaning easier. There are a number of key points to consider in developing products to meet the varied expectations and potential needs of consumers.
We must keep coming up with new ideas to make full use of basic capabilities, to create valuable features, and to reflect changing consumer practices and functions of home electronics in our products, while reducing the labor involved with housework and further make it more enjoyable. As an industry, we must also take environmental awareness seriously. It is crucial to reduce the overall environmental impact of our products and to use our natural resources while trying to conserve oil and natural resources. Our industry is committed to bearing these issues in mind in developing future products.
3. The JSDA Laundry Practices Survey
−A look at the growing popularity of fully automated washing machines and combination washer/dryers and changing laundry practices−
|The JSDA conducted the survey to examine how laundry practices have changed since the introduction of combination washer/dryers and fully automated high-performance washing machines. The survey was conducted in FY05 among 207 respondents in the Tokyo region who had purchased fully automated washing machines within the past 5 years.
|■ How have home washing machines changed?
Drying functions were added to washing machines in around 2000 in Japan. Next on the market were drum-type machines, which boast less noise and movement, are well-suited to Japanese households, and added drying functions to top-loading washing machines. In 2002, fully automated washing machines, which added simple drying functions (air drying and hot-air drying) for small amounts of laundry, were introduced. The market for combination washer/dryer and fully automated washing machine with drying functions grew further.
- (1) The popularity of drying functions has grown rapidly in recent years. Nineteen percent of respondents owned combination washer/dryers, while 19% owned fully automated washing machines with drying functions.
(2) Large-capacity washing machines are steadily gaining popularity. Sixty-seven percent of respondents owned washing machines with capacities of over 7kg.
(3) In addition to existing energy-saving functions, germ-fighting functions are now gaining popularity.
When asked what type of washing machine or combination washer/dryer they would like to purchase in the future, approximately 60% of respondents wished to buy combination washer/dryers, and approximately half of them would like to buy drum-type combination washer/dryers.
■ How are laundry practices changing?
With the increasing popularity of larger-capacity washing machines, we expected to see a trend toward consumers accumulating laundry and doing it once every few days. However, our expectations were off, and we see that consumers still tend to do laundry nearly every day. This may be due to limited space for collecting and hanging accumulated laundry as well as a disinclination toward accumulating soiled laundry.
Some of the bigger trends we have witnessed with laundry are less sorting of laundry due to washing machines' larger capacities and decreasing water requirements, as well as a greater number of consumers than expected using more water in their washing machines than automated settings call for.
Further, more consumers are tending to do their laundry in the evenings recently.
Japanese consumers' strong preference for clean things and inclination to wash their clothes after one wearing is believed to contribute toward the increasing volume of laundry.
- (1) Fewer people are sorting their clothes before doing laundry.
(2) The frequency of doing laundry each week is gradually declining, while the amount of laundry is increasing.
(3) Approximately 15% of respondents use less than a 1:10 ratio of laundry to water (a decline from the 2000 survey figure) and express concern that the laundry remains soiled or is not thoroughly rinsed.
(4) Forty-one percent of working homemakers do laundry after 6 pm on weeknights, while 26% of full-time homemakers do so. The number of people doing laundry in the evenings is on the rise.
(5) Fifty-seven percent of respondents re-use bath water for the wash cycle, and 27% re-use bath water for the first rinse cycle. All respondents use tap water for the final rinse.
(6) The majority of respondents rely on the automated functions of their washing machines to determine the amount of water used and the number of rinse cycles. However, some 30% of respondents increase the volume of water used.
(7) In determining the amount of detergent to use, 53% of respondents follow the directions on the detergent packaging, more than the 44% of respondents who rely on information on the panel of their washing machines.
(8) Some 62% of respondents adjust the amount of detergent used of their own accord.
(9) The concentration of detergent use (versus standard use) is a relatively high 1.28x, but remains roughly unchanged from 5 years ago.
■ Indoor air drying versus automated drying
Approximately 50% of respondents own a clothes dryer; the popularity of such appliances is growing.
Approximately 1 out of 3 combination washer/dryer buyers decided to purchase a clothes dryer in order to be able to do laundry whenever they chose, including rainy days.
- (1) Approximately 90% of respondents have air dried their laundry indoors.
(2) Asked why they air dried their laundry indoors, 93% of respondents said can't dry outdoors because of rain/snow; 47% responded can't hang laundry because of strong winds; 31% responded because of pollen; and 24% responded want to air dry at night.
(3) When air drying laundry indoors, respondents report using the air conditioner or a dehumidifier to hasten the process.
(4) A number of reasons were given for using clothes dryers or combination washer/dryers. The main reason was because of the rain (25%), while other reasons were because of hay fever/allergies (17%); to fluff up the laundry (11%); because hanging laundry is a lot of trouble (6%); and because I often do laundry at night (6%).
(5) Respondents select detergents and fabric softeners that eradicate germs and odors caused by air-drying laundry indoors.
(6) Approximately 50% of respondents own some kind of clothes dryer, and of those, many own combination washer/dryers.
(7) Despite enjoying the convenience and quality of laundry offered by clothes dryers, some respondents report frequently not using dryers due to concerns about the length of drying time and electricity costs.
(8) Respondents reported changes in their laundry practices since purchasing combination washer/dryers, including become able to do laundry regardless of season/climate (53%) and now able to do laundry even on rainy days (38%).