Check reveals than ‘green’ products may come from petroleum rather than plant-based sources

A study presented at the 241st National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Anaheim, California has analysed the carbon source of more than a dozen ‘natural’, ‘sustainable’ or ‘renewable’ commercial laundry detergents, dishwashing liquids and hand washes, and found that the products are more often than not derived from petrochemicals, rather than plants. Petroleum is clearly not renewable and nor is it sustainable.

Cara A M Bondi and colleagues used carbon-14 dating techniques to find out whether the products were derived synthetically from petroleum, or naturally from plants. The results showed a significant variation in plant-derived carbon content: the products contained between 28%-97%, and that those which are ‘green’ on average contained over 50% more plant-based carbon than ordinary products. However, some of the products made claims that were clearly untrue. For example one product claimed to be petrochemical-free, but only 69% of it was plant-based carbon, meaning the remaining 31% was petroleum-derived.

This research is important because of the need to minimise petrochemical use, which is unsustainable, and increase plant use, which is sustainable. Environmentally conscious consumers need to be aware, as their purchases are critical in supporting sustainably manufactured products.

Source: American Chemical Society

March 2011

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