Procter & Gamble announced this week that it will compact its entire US and Canadian powder laundry detergents starting February 2011, which will help reduce waste, save energy and save water.
The smaller packaging and compacted formulas will also reduced fuel consumption, according to the company. With the proper dosage use as recommended, consumers can still clean the same number of loads using less detergent compared to non-compacted formulas.
The key word here is less detergent. I was wondering how much surfactant use will be reduced in these new compacted powder formulations and if there are new type of surfactants added.
I reached out to industry sources (given that P&G are not that media-friendly when it comes to giving out any bit of detergent formulation information), and got the same response that nobody knows much of the specifics regarding these new products.
To quote one source: "P&G has long been looking for ways to achieve this and most of it revolves around new technology to improve efficiency of surfactants (and thus you need less) and maybe incorporate new surfactants. Exactly what the specifics are is likely a tightly guarded secret until the product hits the shelves. I would guess any innovation to be protected by IP."
The detergent market is too competitive so this secrecy is completely understandable especially recalling the move of detergent makers into concentrated liquid detergents. One of P&G's new detergent products launched last year in Europe was Ariel ExcelGel, where the product contains 20% less chemicals per wash and the pack uses 45% less plastic than a common liquid detergent.
Europe actually uses more detergent powders than the US. The European detergents association A.I.S.E. actually launched last year their laundry powder compaction initiative where over a two-year period, detergent manufacturers are committed to reducing volume and weight of powder detergents by 10-15% without reducing the number of wash loads.
The group estimated that the initiative will save 200,000 tonnes of powder and 5,000 tonnes of packaging.
Back to P&G, the company started its transition of compacted powder laundry detergents last year March in Canada. Packaging of Tide concentrated formula was reduced by up to 31-59% compared to the non-compacted formula.
Finally, here's a January article from Wall Street Journal about how Americans seem to be using much more detergents than what is really needed.