Go Green with Cost-Efficient Bio-Based Technology

January 7, 2009

Tests conducted by Novozymes demonstrate that detergents reformulated with enzymes can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of washing.

Go Green with Cost-Efficient Bio-Based Technology

Tests conducted by Novozymes demonstrate that detergents reformulated with enzymes can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of washing.

Dr. Teresa Neal
Marketing Manager
Novozymes, The Americas

Sales of greenlaundry detergent products have exploded with a 66% increase in the US in 2007, according to Information Resources Inc (IRI), Chicago, IL.1 Today both consumers and retailers are driving the market toward more sustainable solutions. Consumers are more environmentally aware and mass market chains such as Wal-Mart are pushing for a reduction in harmful ingredients in cleaning products on the market.

As consumers demand more eco-friendly products, governments are reviewing environmental standards and are working toward greener regulations. In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is working on an update of the environmental marketing guidelines known as Green Guides. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which closely monitors the effects of surfactants on aquatic life, is pushing for new detergent ingredients that lower the environmental impact of washing. In Europe, the EU has introduced stricter chemical regulations (REACH) that will have consequences for all chemical imports and exports to Europe.

The current green wave is hampered, however, by fluctuations in raw material prices. These fluctuations are putting pressure on detergent manufacturers to closely examine and stabilize their cost base, and subsequently rethink their detergent formulations.

Ernie Rosenberg, president of the Soap and Detergent Association (SDA), stressed in an interview with the Chemical & Engineering News the necessity for innovation in the detergent industry and discussed the need for companies to reformulate their products with evident sustainable benefits in order to succeed.2

Volatile Prices

For detergents, surfactants and builders are the main expenses in the cost structure, accounting for about 75% of the ingredient cost for liquid detergent and slightly less for powder.

While surfactants and builders have been subject to price changes, enzymes have remained stable. Traditionally, enzymes have been used for cleaning boosters; for stain removal or improving whiteness, and not for ingredient replacement. But new technology makes it possible to replace or lower surfactants or builders with enzymes without loss in performance.

A Cost-effective Alternative

New enzyme-based technology from Novozymes takes enzymes beyond cleaning boosters allowing ingredient replacement or reduction of surfactants, builders or other chemicals without compromising performance. This development opens a door to new innovative solutions for detergent manufacturers where they can choose to replace costly ingredients with more price stable and sustainable alternatives.

By reformulating with enzymes, manufacturers can develop customized solutions to counter the current market challenges they face. The optimized formulations make it possible to:
• Substitute a percentage of surfactants;
• Substitute a percentage of builders, such as phosphates; and
• Substitute other toxic or harmful substances.

The benefits of adding a multi-enzyme solution are:
• A more sustainable detergent. Enzymes are readily biodegradable;
• Support for the compaction trend. Low volumes of enzymes are required to replace high-volume ingredients such as surfactants and builders;
• Improved performance. The synergistic effect of combining several enzymes results in improved stain removal and overall cleaning beyond what single enzymes can achieve; and
• Energy-efficient product. Enzy-mes work well even at low temperatures, allowing wash temperature reductions and thereby energy savings.

Balancing Costs

Tests conducted by Novozymes and its partners, prove that it is possible to substitute or replace a significant percentage of surfactants and builders in European liquid and powder detergents without compromising the performance. In one study, wash tests convey that up to 40% of the surfactant system in a powder formula can be replaced with an enzyme cocktail, consisting of a protease, lipase, amylase, and cellulase, without reducing the wash performance. On enzyme-sensitive stains, the test revealed increased performance and on surfactant-sensitive stains maintained performance. Thus, it is possible to stabilize the cost base by using enzymes for reformulation and thereby improve the performance and the sustainability of the detergent.

In another study, a detergent manufacturer wanted to replace phosphate-based builders, reduce dosage and lower the overall formulation cost. Together with Novozymes, the formulator went through several trials to find the optimal blend. The result was a reformulated phosphate-free detergent at a lower cost where dosage could be reduced by 30%, without affecting wash performance at both high and low temperatures.

Enzymes are useful not only for surfactant and builder substitution. Novozymes’ reformulation expertise enables formulators to rethink the detergent formulation in many ways. In some cases, chemicals can be replaced with multi-enzyme solutions through detergent reformulation, allowing formulators to rid unsustainable or toxic-labeled ingredients.

Smaller and Cooler

Compaction is an ongoing trend, led by companies such as Procter & Gamble and Unilever, as well as retailers such as Wal-Mart. Compaction reduces the size of detergent packaging and decreases transportation and storage costs.

This trend calls for formulations that are just as efficient but simply take up less space. In the example above, where enzymes were used to replace up to 40% of the surfactants system in a formula, this substantially reduces the overall volume of the detergent and directly supports the compaction trend.

Another eco-friendly trend is to save energy by lowering the wash temperature. Up to 90% of the energy used during laundry wash is from heating the water. By turning down the temperature, it is possible to save 162 pounds annually in CO2 emission.3 By substituting a percentage of surfactants and builders with enzymes, it is possible to substantially lower the wash temperature since enzymes are efficient at low temperatures (see figure above). Tests conducted by Novozymes demonstrate that detergents reformulated with enzymes can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of washing.


Facing a challenging financial climate and a changing market, detergent formulators must rethink their formulations. Companies can now reformulate their detergents with advanced enzyme technology and thereby adjust their formulations to meet consumer needs and current market challenges. Enzyme reformulation permits cost reduction while gaining a high-quality environmentally-friendly product.l

More info: (919) 449-5336; Fax: (919) 494-3450; E-mail: tjna@novozymes.com


1. “Bubbling confusion—U.S. cleaners demand unified green standards,” Doris de Guzman, 20 June 2008, ICIS Chemical business.
2. Statement made in “Green Cleaners—consumer demand for environmentally friendly cleaning products has changed the game for chemical suppliers,” by Michael McCoy, Chemical & Engineering News, January 21, 2008, Vol. 86, No 3, p15-23
3. A Calculated Loss: How to Reduce Your Global Warming Emissions, by Emily Main and P.W. McRandle, National Geographic Green Guides, March/April 2007, issue 119.