The new cleaners ­hygiene products are now based on biotechnology

The development of biotechnology-based cleaners is helping to clean up the world in more ways than one. Not only are these cleaners often more effective than their traditional counterparts, but they are safer to dispose of, less aggressive and often more cost effective than traditional options.

As the costs of waste disposal rise, biotechnical products will save companies money. But they also benefit the food company's customers and staff through their improved performance, and the world in general through the reduction in damaging effluent.

Biotechnology harnesses the power of living organisms or biological molecules such as enzymes and antibodies to create industrial products and processes. Although enzymes are formed in living cells, they are not living materials. Research and development over the past decade has increased the understanding and application of these processes.

The organisms feed on organic substances and, if oxygen is present, called an aerobic reaction, they break down the substances to carbon dioxide, water, and a useful product such as an industrial enzyme or cleaner waste.

Typically, biotechnical processes require lower temperatures and pressures than when aggressive acid or alkali chemicals are used. This means less energy is needed and it is easier to comply with health and safety legislation.

In addition, enzymes are recyclable while waste products from biological processes tend to be easier to dispose of and less harmful to the environment. It all means reduced costs while improving the conditions of the workforce.

Catalytic action

Enzymes are proteins, composed of amino acids, which are produced by all living organisms. They are essential for all metabolic processes, but are not themselves living materials. They are distinguishable from other proteins because of their catalytic activity.

Enzymes not only work efficiently and rapidly, they are also biodegradable. But they are very specific ­ one type can only carry out one type of degradation. Because of this specificity, enzymes are very safe to use in the environment.

Enzymatic cleaners are designed by selecting the fungi or bacteria that are most effective at degrading a specific substrate, whether it is fat, oil, vegetable matter or hydrocarbons. The enzyme is then extracted and stabilised so that, on hydration, it is ready to work.

Enzyme cleaning action is more thorough as the substrate is actually degraded rather than being emulsified or lifted as with traditional chemical cleaners. Cleaning of surfaces with enzymes is also more hygienic as the removal of all organic material leaves no substrate for the growth of unwanted bacteria.

Enzymes quickly become denatured, or inactive, if allowed to dry out, be heated over 50oC or come into contact with toxic chemicals or biocides. They are also naturally used up as the act of performing a catalytic reaction degrades the individual enzyme along with the individual molecule of substrate.

Enzymes target only dead organic waste so they are harmless to living flora, fauna, animals and humans. In health and safety terms, enzymes are far safer than typical chemical cleaners as they are natural in origin.

Robert Looke, director of Envirobridge, says there are four enzyme groups: Lipases, which breakdown fats, oils and greases; Proteases, which breakdown proteins such as blood and eggs; Amylases, for carbohydrates such as sugars and starch; and Cellulases, which breakdown cellulose. He says that residue removal, which means denaturing the enzymes, can be effected in a number of ways: rinsing and washdown; hot water or steam; drying with hot air; and treating with a mild biocide. Comparative tests on the effectiveness of removing cleaning residue can be confirmed by ATP (bio-luminescence) or swab tests. In comparison, the residue from traditional cleaners can only be effectively removed by thorough rinsing.

Envirobridge offers a very wide range of biotech-based products. It also offers an on-site cleaning service. Products include UltraShield Citrasan, a non-toxic hypoallergenic sanitiser and cleaner. It is suitable for direct application to work surfaces and storage trays containing foodstuffs and is effective against bacteria, viruses, yeast and fungi. It has a strong residual effect.

It can be applied neat via spray or by hand using a cloth, sponge or swab. It is a bioacid naturally derived from citrus extracts, with natural enzymes to eliminate biofilm and natural sequestering agents to prevent deactivation in hard water. UltraShield Citrasan is classified as non-toxic but, in its neat form, can have a de-fatting action on the skin.

UltraShield Direct Action 1 is a concentrated very powerful biological cleaner for all porous surfaces such as concrete, tiles and wood where it penetrates far deeper than traditional chemical cleaners. It is designed to seek out and digest organic waste including grease, food, animal waste, mould and fungus. It is ideal for regular hygiene maintenance in markets, kitchens, canteens and factories.

It removes dirt by breaking down the molecular structure which binds dirt to its supporting surface. It is not a solvent or bleach and is strong enough to perform as well as the acids, caustics and strong alkalis present in traditional cleaners. It does not require hot water to work but performs best with lukewarm water at about 20oC, saving cost and energy.

Degrading effect

UltraShield Greaseclear is a powerful environmentally friendly grease maintenance product. It contains specially targeted saprophytic micro organisms that have a particular ability to break down and degrade animal and vegetable fats and grease.

This is patented biotechnology which fixes the micro organisms to a very slow dissolving mineral powder. The mineral powder contains over half a million micro organisms in every teaspoon and provides a long lasting base for the organisms to operate from. This means they adhere to drains and grease trap surfaces and resist being washed away like traditional chemical cleaners. This slow dissolving action can last for several days.

Besides keeping grease traps clear, Greaseclear cuts odours and unblocks and maintains clear and odour free drains and sewers that are exposed to regular grease and fat discharges. Digesting and degrading fats kills smell by preventing the fermentation of anaerobes. The liquid version also degrades organic matter, fats and greases, again reducing odours, but it can be used with dosing equipment for measured treatment operations.

Foam Lance Mousse Application is highly concentrated for industrial use. It is suitable for process clean area maintenance and is suitable for all washable surfaces and routine cleaning of plant and equipment.

UltraShield Mousse Universal Cleaner is a clean yellow viscous gel, bioactive mousse that can be applied as solid foam to walls, ceilings and ducting and is especially suitable for use in food processing areas and kitchens. It also prevents the growth of moulds and fungi and can prevent the growth of pathogenic bacteria such as E coli and salmonella.

UltraShield Plus is a concentrated rapid action biological cleaner for all surfaces including food machines. It is suitable for multi-surface environments such as kitchens, washrooms, toilets and machines. It offers deep and maintenance cleaning in the manufacturing environment.

Enzyme producer

Genencor International says it is the second largest developer and manufacturer of industrial enzymes in the world. A principal use for its products is in laundry products as a stain remover. Enzymes are consumer friendly when used in detergent formulations allowing the use of less aggressive formulations to help reduce clothing damage during washing. This allows clothes to be washed at lower temperatures, saving energy. Enzymes can also be used instead of chlorine bleach for removing stains on cloth. The use of enzymes allows the level of surfactants to be reduced and permits the cleaning of clothes in the absence of phosphates.

The benefits of enzyme-based products applies to a number of applications as enzymes, in their role as biochemical catalysts, can often replace chemicals or processes that present safety or environmental issues. Proteases, amylases and lipases are used to break down protein, starch and fatty stains.

But the company says naturally occurring enzymes are quite often not available in sufficient quantities for industrial use. Biotechnology offers the possibility of producing enzymes for industrial use by optimising the living conditions of a micro organism so increasing its production capacity. This technique is called fermentation. After this process, the enzymes are isolated and processed for industrial use.

For convenience, the Texwipe Company has developed wipers for virtually all environments and applications. In particular are those pre-wetted with cleaning solutions and packaged in dispensers. The company sells contamination control supplies and critical cleaning products worldwide.

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