Enormous quantities of energy and water are required for China’s 1.3 billion people to wash their clothes, and large volumes of wastewater are discharged.
As well as serving a large population, the Chinese detergent market is characterized by some very special conditions. The number of washing machines in China is growing rapidly and will reach household penetration of 89% in 2020. However, many Chinese people still prefer the traditional method of washing by hand. In fact, more than 50% of all laundry in China is still done by hand.
The perfect match for washing by machine and hand
Novozymes has developed an enzymatic solution to meet the uniquely Chinese challenge of concerns about environmental impact combined with the tradition of handwashing.
“Novozymes has developed a range of enzymes optimized for detergents and used them to provide Chinese consumers with optimal results for laundry done in a washing machine or by hand," said Per Falholt, Chief Science Officer at Novozymes, during his speech at the AOCS conference in Singapore.
"These multienzyme solutions consist of up to eight different enzymes and can deliver the performance that consumers want in a shorter time, with less mechanical action and at lower temperatures. In addition, replacing surfactants with enzymes has a positive impact on CO2 emissions and water quality."
The AOCS conference is an important meeting place for global leaders within fabric and home care. The purpose of the conference is to present ways to enhance quality of life, an area where enzymatic technologies fit very well.
“The enzymes also make it possible to get washing clean with less scrubbing. This is why we say that enzymes are the perfect match for laundry in China: They give you the option to wash by hand or machine.”
Environmental savings from enzymes
Enzymes are nature’s smart little workhorses. They can do a highly targeted job and attack a variety of common laundry stains, for example fruit, grass and grease stains. Enzymes are also instrumental in enabling better cleaning performance in low-temperature washing. Moreover, they are used in much smaller quantities and therefore have less impact on the environment.
“If all 3 million tons of detergent used in China every year were optimized with enzymes, the CO2 saving would be 83,000 tons of CO2, equivalent to taking 35,000 cars off the road. Wastewater quality would also be improved because enzymes are used in much smaller quantities, so the water quality of 2.8 million m3 of water would be improved,” Per Falholt concluded.
And the potential is even greater. Imagine if Chinese consumers started heating the washwater to achieve the performance they want. This would have significant environmental implications. With enzymes, this scenario can be avoided, as enzymes can deliver the desired performance at the current low temperatures, thus saving 5 million tons of CO2. This would be equivalent to taking 2.1 million cars off the road – or almost half the cars in Beijing.
Use of enzymes in detergents also complements China’s 12th Five-Year Plan. The Chinese government is focusing on resource efficiency and lowering CO2 emissions, and the plan encourages compact and liquid detergents. The use of enzymes in detergents will help China achieve these goals, while at the same time providing the potential for increased detergent cleaning performance for consumers.