Shrinking laundry’s carbon footprint with biotechnology

Let’s accelerate and Rethink Tomorrow

Imagine if we could lower emissions from our laundry, while stopping 10 tonnes of fossil-based chemicals from going down our drains every minute


With biobased detergents we can

The hidden climate
impact of laundry

Energy-efficient machines, colder washes and line drying. These are just a few of the steps we can all take to reduce the climate impact of our laundry. But have you ever wondered about the carbon footprint of your laundry detergent?

Detergents are made of ingredients such as surfactants, polymers and solvents. They all contribute to the great performance we’ve come to expect from modern laundry detergents. But there’s a catch; these fossil-derived chemical ingredients can account for up to 46% of a detergent’s carbon footprint.

kid sitting in front of laundry machine

This all adds up to 55 Billion Tonnes

That’s how much of CO2 we emitted into our atmosphere in 2021. And the number has not started declining yet. So every tonne we can save when producing and using detergents really counts.

We’re lowering emissions by reducing the chemical use in detergent

We can partially replace the chemicals in laundry detergents with more climate-friendly bio-based ingredients. For example, we have shown that we can cut the level of surfactants by 30% in a standard detergent and add a blend of enzymes. The performance of this detergent matches or even exceeds the standard one.

Best of all, washing with this detergent could potentially save an estimated 9g of CO2 per load of laundry. This may not sound like much, but scaled up, its impact is huge. Applied to just half of all laundry loads in Latin America, for example, the annual CO2 savings would be equal to taking 45,000 cars off the road for a year.

And wait, there's more: Safer for eco-systems and longer life for clothes

Enzymes deliver a range of environmental benefits. They allow cold-water washing, saving large amounts of heating energy to cut emissions. Chemical surfactants get ‘used up’ during the wash process, but enzymes keep working to the end. That makes them effective at much smaller doses than the chemicals they replace. Their lower doses also mean it takes far less water to dilute them to completely safe levels if they do make it into our eco-systems. And unlike surfactants, enzymes are readily biodegradable. Smaller doses also support compaction, which brings a range of CO2 and other environmental savings. Finally, enzymes keep colors bright and whites white, so you can keep the clothes you love for longer and shrink the carbon footprint of your wardrobe.

But what do our experts think?

"If we’re serious about achieving climate-neutrality, we urgently need high-performing, affordable bio-based detergents that can go mainstream. Thanks to biotechnology, we have a solution ready to go. And we’re working hard with our customers in the detergent industry to bring it to a supermarket near you."

Sandra Friis-Jensen,
Director, Biological detergents


Sandra Friis-Jensen

What do enzymes do in detergents?

In laundry detergents, enzymes break down stains, grime and fuzz, making them easier to remove. In fact, enzymes are the secret behind many of the benefits of modern detergents. Unlike chemical ingredients, enzymes are renewable and biodegradable. Novozymes offers a wide range of enzymes to cover every laundry need.

Novozymes named EPA Safer Choice Partner of the Year

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recognized Novozymes North America as a Safer Choice Partner of the Year award winner. The award is given for achievement in the design, manufacture, selection, and use of products with safer chemicals.

EPA Safer Choice logo

Want to learn more about biobased detergents?

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