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Can we clean ourselves green?

Tom Bates | Sales Director | 24th July 2023

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The cleaning and facilities management sector is seen by many as a substantial source of pollution. Thousands of front-line staff swilling and spraying potentially toxic chemicals around on a daily basis with little consideration for their correct disposal or how they could impact the natural environment.

Recent research in the US has looked at levels of synthetic ‘volatile organic compounds’ or VOC’s in roadside air in the Los Angeles area, and found that as much came from industrial and household products refined from petroleum like cleaning chemicals as from vehicle exhaust pipes.

These compounds are a significant contributor to air pollution. When airborne, they mix with other chemicals to create harmful ozone gasses which can trigger breathing problems with the fine particles driving up cases of heart and lung disease.

In April 2021, following a series of world leading carbon cutting pledges and investments in green infrastructure, the then Prime Minister, Boris Johnson enshrined a new target into law that would commit the UK to slash carbon emissions by 78% by 2035. However, recent warnings by a former head of the UN climate body Professor Sir Bob Watson who said he was ‘pessimistic’ about our ability to limit the increase in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

He said that the UK had lost its leadership on climate issues, and that the government's backing of new oil and coal projects, airport expansion plans and slow progress on heat pumps showed a lack of urgency.

It seems that with a lack of enthusiasm from central government, it is up to individuals and private companies to take the lead. Reuters recent survey of 2000 workers in the UK suggest that 65% of people were more likely to work for a company that had strong environmental values. With the talent crisis in full swing, this is something that the cleaning/FM industry cannot afford to ignore.

Mitie has now transitioned 50% of its fleet to electric vehicles as part of its wider ‘Plan Zero’ pledge. They now operate more than 3500 electric vehicles across the business. Of course, Mitie being a giant within the market has the capital and resources to implement such a change.

The race to net zero is not a sprint, small organisational changes is how it will be won. The emphasis must be on the individual and how each front-line worker can change habits and adapt processes to reduce waste.

Innovation, Innovation, Innovation.

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