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The cleaning industry comes to grips with blue gold

Over the past few weeks, we have had to deal in quick succession first with major drought and then with severe floods.
Even though these two phenomena are on opposite ends of the spectrum, they bring us face to face with the same pressing problem: that of water management.

And we all know just how important water is for life. The greatest civilisations sprung up around water and today blue gold is still an indispensable resource for farming, industry and simply for the survival of the human race.

It has been estimated that over 70% of the earth's surface is covered by water (almost 1,400 million cubic kilometres). But unfortunately, it is not all fit for human consumption:
  • about 97% of the world's water is saline which means that cannot be drunk or used for other activities;
  • about 2% of freshwater is frozen or lies in basins deep beneath the surface;
  • only 1% of the water on Earth is drinkable and available to mankind.
To make the situation worse, this 1% is unfairly distributed.
The cleaning industry comes to grips with blue gold
And drought complicates matters further. According to a report drawn up by the United Nations, 4 billion people live in areas where water is extremely scarce for at least a month a year and unless there is a change in this trend, the demand for water will outstrip supply by 40% in 2030.
Together with sanitation, the availability of clean water is the sixth of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals.

According to data supplied by the ISAC-CNR (the Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate), 2022 was the driest year since 1800 in Italy with a 30% water shortage. Furthermore, the water-supply situation is exacerbated by other factors. Periods of drought are giving way to violent bouts of hailstorms, floods and tornadoes all of which devastate vast areas of land, and make it even more difficult to manage water. How can our thoughts not go to the tragic events in the Romagna region in Italy over the past few weeks? After having suffered from drought for months, the area was hit by flash floods which wreaked havoc on the landscape and caused further damage due to contamination.

Because when we do have access to water, human activities often compromise its quality and pollute it with substances that make it basically unusable and harmful. So, contaminated rivers and groundwater lower the percentage of available drinking water even more.

Industries have a huge responsibility in this sense. According to data from the World Bank Group in Italy, industrial activities use up to 23% of drinking water (on the other hand, 50% is used by farming and 23% is used by households).
Almost 1.5 billion people all over the world (7.6 billion in all) have water-related jobs. Basically, water really is blue gold and it plays a vital role in our economy, accounting for a great number of professional activities.
Needless to say, one of these is the cleaning industry.

Let’s take as an example two easily-understandable washing-related data points: it is believed that commercial washing machines use on average 157,931 litres of water (and up to 910 kWh of electricity per year).
Furthermore, usually over 90% of a normal bottle of cleaning detergent is just made up of water.

However, in the sphere of cleaning, water is not only a precious resource to be preserved, but increasingly a cost too. So, whether we are talking about the environment or whether we are seeking efficiency, saving water is definitely one of the goals that the cleaning industry must achieve.
The cleaning industry comes to grips with blue gold
How? Undoubtedly by putting procedures in place and by making use of machinery that allows for the use of less water. But there's more to it than that.
One of the biggest water-related issues in industrial cleaning is the fact that wastewater used for cleaning operations is dirty and contaminated by detergents and chemicals, amongst other things. This means that it cannot be used again.

So, there are 2 other courses of action we can take to protect water resources:
  1. lower or eliminate the use of chemicals for cleaning;
  2. develop systems that allow us to re-use water more than once.
Once again, the answer comes from technology, research and development. Because while it is true that we absolutely need to rationalise the use of resources, it is no less true that we cannot and must not lower our standards of cleaning and hygiene. Actually, there is still a lot of work to be done in this direction, especially in many parts of the world where hygiene is substandard.

Technology is able to supply innovative tools, products and devices in order to guarantee high standards of cleanliness and hygiene while preserving water. For instance, there are machines that use ozone instead of chemicals as well as floor scrubbing machines with systems that rationalise the usage of water, filtering and purifying wastewater and making it available again. Monitoring and telemetry systems are also very useful to check consumption and keep tabs on the efficiency of cleaning procedures.
The cleaning industry comes to grips with blue gold

Sustainability lowers costs and raises profits

Going down the road of reduced consumption, being sustainable and saving water does not only lessen our impact on the environment, it also keeps cleaning costs under control and boosts our profit margin.
Having said that, cleanliness is an essential part of our society and we need to inhabit salubrious places, including commercial properties and public areas. This comes at a cost. It is beyond doubt that when an area is spic and span, safety standards are higher and the likelihood of accidents and contamination is lower. But there is no direct link between cleanliness and earnings.

However, when done right, cleaning leads to a clear drop in consumption, and therefore in fewer costs... which means earnings!
So, we must use a minimum amount of detergent or not use one at all; recycle wastewater for re-use; schedule cleaning procedures with the help of artificial intelligence; monitor results... all the technology we have available allows us to optimise our cleaning processes, not only making precious savings in blue gold, but also savings in monetary terms.