Who Cares About The Environment, Give Me Clean Dishes!

eutrophication of lake photo

Eutrophication of lake, caused by phosphates. Source: Rutgers

Two years ago, when Washington State banned phosphates in dishwasher detergent (the last detergent or soap that still had it), our post was deluged with comments complaining how the new stuff didn't work as well as the old. Nobody seemed to much care about lakes and algae and eutrophication, they just wanted everything to be like it was.

Now, with 17 states banning phosphates, the manufacturers have taken phosphate free detergent national (as Mike noted here) and according to the New York Times, the complaints have gone national too.

It is a good example of what Alex Wilson was discussing recently about what we have to do to get people to go green: Make it easy. Mireya Navarro writes in the Times:

Many consumers are finding the new formulas as appealing as low-flow showers, underscoring the tradeoffs that people often face today in a more environmentally conscious marketplace. From hybrid cars to solar panels, environmentally friendly alternatives can cost more. They can be less convenient, like toting cloth sacks or canteens rather than plastic bags or bottled water. And they can prove less effective, like some of the new cleaning products.

And clearly, given the choice between cheap dishwasher detergent and living lakes, the dishwasher wins. Or as one blogger put it: "I am not some eco hippie and I WANT phosphate."

Notwithstanding our post titled Eco Dishwashing Liquid Works As Well as Cascade:

In its September issue Consumer Reports reported that of 24 low- or phosphate-free dishwasher detergents it tested, including those from environmentally friendly product lines that have been on the market for years, none matched the performance of products with phosphates


Sometimes you have to accept a little less performance from a greener product, to keep harmful chemicals out of our water and our bodies. But it seems most people want squeaky clean dishes more.

More in the New York Times
More on phosphates in dishwasher detergent:
Ask TreeHugger: What's the Dirt on Phosphate-Free Soaps?
Washington State Bans Phosphorus in Dishwasher Detergent
Finally! Detergent Industry Puts Voluntary Ban on Phosphates in Household Dishwasher Detergents
Eco Dishwashing Liquid Works As Well as Cascade