Detergent firms struggle over EU green deal

Commitment to reduce per-capita household laundry detergent use upset by rising trend

European laundry detergent makers are failing to achieve a key element of a 1998 environmental agreement with the European Commission, according to a well informed source. Under the deal, the industry agreed to reduce per capita household detergent consumption. A progress review has shown that consumption has increasing instead during the first third of the agreement period.

Under the voluntary agreement detergent manufacturers committed to reduce per capita consumption of detergents and packaging and also to cut energy use per wash cycle and the use of poorly biodegradable ingredients, all by specified amounts from 1996 levels by 2002 (ENDS Daily 23 July 1998). Aise recently acknowledged that the commitment was proving difficult to live up to in its 1999 review, but has declined to release any figures.

According to a well-informed source, however, the survey shows that per capita detergent consumption rose by 2% to 1998, the latest year for which figures are available. A fall instead of 3.3% would have been needed by this time to put the industry on track to meet its commitment to a 10% cut by 2002.

Two other targets were on track to being met or exceeded, the source said. By 1998, per-capita packaging use was down by 6% and content of poorly biodegradable substances was down 13%. Both are targeted to be reduced by 10% by 2002.

The source claimed that detergent consumption was rising because of reluctance by market-leader Procter & Gamble to promote "concentrated" detergent products, which can reduce consumption by over 50%. Other companies were reluctant to promote them vigorously, the source said, because they feared that consumers would prefer products with greater bulk, perceiving them to be better value for money.

Asked about the agreement review today, an Aise spokesperson conceded that the industry "doesn't know if it will achieve" the targets, but said it was "working to get as close as it possibly can". She said demographic trends, including more single households, were making the task more difficult, but added that new "communication initiatives" would be launched early next month.

Follow Up:
Aise, tel: +32 2 230 8371, and information on the agreement on the website Washright.

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