Government urged to tackle “hidden” carbon emissions in household products

Washing up liquid

The Think Tank Green Alliance’s “A new formula” report highlights the “significant carbon footprint” of making and using many everyday products, such as washing up liquid and laundry tablets.

According to the report, the chemicals used to manufacture washing up liquid and its plastic bottle mean the washing up liquid used by UK households each year is responsible for the same carbon emissions as around 40,000 UK cars.

This includes the emissions released at the end of the product’s life but excludes any hot water used. Green Alliance says its calculations were based on the use of 12ml of washing up liquid per day per household.

The report also states that the production of laundry tablets and their breakdown in sewage works contributes to the equivalent emissions of 660,000 cars a year – again without factoring in the hot water used. Green Alliance says these calculations were based on an average of four laundry washes per week per household.

Green Alliance is arguing that the manufacture of chemicals and their derivatives should be “cleaned up”. The Think Tank says that cutting the climate impact of the UK’s chemicals sector would also help to protect jobs outside of London and the south east.

What we now need is for the government to help British manufacturers make their production processes greener.

The report urges the government to adjust policy in four specific areas, which include offering the sector access to cheap renewable power in exchange for going green and incentivising a shift from plants reliant on fossil fuels to greener alternatives, such as heat pumps and electric boilers.

The report also says the government should introduce mandatory product standards that make products greener and longer lasting and other measures to improve reuse and recycling, help farmers to optimise application techniques and explore the sustainable use of biomass and new synthetic chemicals like green methanol.

Liam Hardy, policy analyst at Green Alliance, commented: “The chemicals used in everyday products are a huge hidden source of carbon emissions. What we now need is for the government to help British manufacturers make their production processes greener.

“This should not only help to reduce our carbon footprint and make the UK a science leader but can also safeguard good jobs in our industrial heartlands.”

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