After Years of Saying it Can't be Done
The American Cleaning Institute (ACI, formerly the Soap and Detergent Association), represents most of the soap-makers in the U.S., has announced a voluntary ban on phosphates in household dishwasher detergents. This follows the banning of phosphates in many US states (such as Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin) and similar bans in Europe, and the voluntary ban of phosphates from laundry detergent in the 1990s. You could say that the soap-makers knew which way the wind is blowing... But what's so bad about phosphates?The Problem With Phosphates in Soap
"Once phosphates are discharged into the environment, they promote algae growth in local waters. These sudden blooms of algae trigger a process called eutrophication in which local waters become starved of oxygen and devoid of life. This issue is of special concern to anyone living near a lake or pond," writes Seventh Generation, a maker of phosphates-free soaps. You can read more about aquatic dead zones here.
Activists have been trying to get phosphates banned for 40 years, but soap-makers have lobbied intensively, claiming that it was impossible to remove that ingredient from their products (or that if they could do it with laundry detergent, it couldn't be done with dishwasher detergent, and so on). But over the years, many green soap-makers have shown the public that it could be done.
Agriculture Still Biggest Problem
The next step will be to reduce agricultural run-offs of nitrogen and phosphorus that also cause algae blooms and aquatic dead zones. Agriculture is a huge source of these chemicals, mostly because it pays more for farmers to put more fertilizer than they need "just in case" than to put only what's required. Better farming techniques (more high-tech soil sensors, etc) and organic farming techniques could help reduce that problem.
Via Marketwire, Airdye
More on Phosphates in Soap
Ask TreeHugger: What's the Dirt on Phosphate-Free Soaps?
Washington State Bans Phosphorus in Dishwasher Detergent