Are Zep Cleaning Products Eco-Friendly? 9 Important Answers

Are Zep Cleaning Products Eco-Friendly

published on August 6th, 2022

One of the biggest struggles when it comes to living a greener life is finding effective cleaning products that are not bad for the environment. 

Zep is a well-known company manufacturing cleaning products for professional and industrial use. 

But with concerns about hazardous chemicals in cleaning products, are Zep cleaning products eco-friendly?

Although Zep are taking steps to be more sustainable, overall, Zep products are not sustainable due to their packaging materials and some of their ingredients.

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know.

1. What Are Zep Cleaning Products Made Of?

The exact ingredients vary per product.

The following ingredients can be found in many Zep products.

  • Benzalkonium chloride liquid
  • Chloroxylenol 
  • Glycerin
  • Ethanol 
  • FD&C Colors 
  • Sodium Chloride
  • Anhydrous Citric Acid  
  • Lauroyl/Myristoyl Amidopropyl Amine Oxide  
  • Coco Diisopropanolamine
  • PEG-120 Methyl glucose dioleate  
  • Methylchloroisothiazolinone  
  • Edetate sodium
  • Butyl 
  • Sodium hydroxide 
  • Cetrimonium Chloride
  • Methylisothiazolinone 
  • Tetrasodium EDTA

2. Are Zep Cleaning Products Made Sustainably?

According to its website, Zep intends to limit its environmental footprint.

They have pledged to reduce their carbon footprint, water usage, and pollution and comply with environmental and safety regulations.

However, there are concerns about the ingredients used in many of their products.

FD&C Colors 

FD&C are synthetic dyes. These colors are made from coal tar, which is non-renewable. 

The FDA regards these dyes as safe.

However, research on coal-tar-based pavements found that coal tar is harmful to marine life and may even be a potential human carcinogen. 

Glycerin 

Glycerin can be found in plants or animal fats, so it is somewhat renewable. 

However, glycerin production is energy-intensive and since most of the energy grid still relies on non-renewable electricity sources, this causes pollution. 

Benzalkonium Chloride 

Benzalkonium chloride is an anti-septic ingredient.

Research has found it is toxic when exposed to aquatic environments and can inhibit algae growth. 

Although algae blooms can be harmful, normal algae growth is not bad for the environment.

Algae is a food source for marine life. It can also be used as a renewable energy source and can absorb carbon dioxide. 

Sodium Hypochlorite

Sodium hypochlorite is a type of chlorine bleach. 

This bleach can easily enter water supplies, which is harmful to plants and animals who come into contact with the water – including microorganisms like plankton – which are a food source for fish and can convert carbon dioxide into oxygen.

Chloroxylenol 

Chloroxylenol is another chlorine-based disinfectant.

It can easily enter the environment via wastewater treatment plants. 

Environmental exposure can be harmful to aquatic life and soil health. 

Tetrasodium EDTA

According to the EPA, Tetrasodium EDTA, which acts as a disinfectant, is not believed to be harmful to non-target organisms in the environment.

However, there are concerns that it may mobilize heavy metals, which can contribute to water pollution. 

Human consumption of heavy metals from water or fish containing heavy metals has been linked with increased cancer risk, diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, neuronal damage, and poor renal health.

Methylisothiazolinone

Methylisothiazolinone is a preservative.

It can contribute to water pollution and is highly toxic to marine life in freshwater systems. 

It is also a common human allergen. 

Cetrimonium Bromide 

Cetrimonium bromide is an antiseptic. 

Research found this substance should be treated as a pollutant as it can cause phytotoxicity and negatively impact plant health, such as affecting germination rates, growth, chlorophyll content, and more.

Sodium Hydroxide 

The EPA approves the use of sodium hydroxide in pesticides and does not deem it likely to cause harmful effects on the environment or on humans. 

However, some environmental agencies consider this compound a water pollutant.

Exposure can cause serious harm and even death to freshwater fish

Butyl 

Butyl is a type of synthetic rubber.

Research on butyl rubber stoppers found they can leach toxic compounds. 

These can negatively interact with aerobic methane oxidation incubations.

This process is carried out by bacteria and helps maintain a balance of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.

Methyl Glucose 

Methyl glucose is usually derived from plant-based sources and is used to add moisture to products. 

Although research found it was not toxic to animals or bacteria, it is not unheard of for it to cause skin irritation in humans.

However, the European Chemicals Agency regards it as harmful to marine life. 

Amine Oxide 

Anime oxide is not regarded as harmful in aquatic environments because it biodegrades quickly through the sewer system and wastewater treatment facilities.

However, that’s not to say it’s not toxic; research found that some kinds of bacteria were sensitive to this compound. 

Diisopropanolamine

Diisopropanolamine (DIPA) is generally used as an emulsifier in products. 

There is little research to suggest Diisopropanolamine is harmful to the environment and it biodegradable. 

3. Are Zep Cleaning Products Eco-Friendly?

Most Zep products come in metal and plastic containers, which are not eco-friendly. 

Both of these materials are non-renewable and are sourced via mining, which is a highly polluting process.

This process can pollute the air, soil, and water, damage the structure of the land from setting up the mine and cause rock and soil instability. 

As mentioned earlier, some of the ingredients in Zep cleaning problems are harmful to aquatic and plant life.

4. Are Zep Cleaning Products Toxic?

Some Zep cleaning products may be toxic.

As each product uses different ingredients, they all have different levels of toxicity, while some might not be toxic at all. 

Common ingredients used in Zep cleaning products are considered toxic, such as bleach, butyl, methylisothiazolinone, benzalkonium chloride, and more.

You will need to read the ingredients list and warning labels if you want to avoid toxic products. 

5. Are Zep Cleaning Products Biodegradable?

Most Zep cleaning products are not biodegradable.

First and foremost, plastic and metal packaging are not biodegradable. 

Zep claims their Concentrated Tuff Green and Shell Shock hand cleaner are biodegradable.

The hand cleaner is soy-based and contains walnut shells, which are both renewable and biodegradable.

Some Zep products, like the two mentioned above, are labeled with a Green Link logo.

Keep in mind that this does not mean the product was independently approved as biodegradable or eco-friendly.

This means it met Zep’s own sustainability standards. 

Some ingredients may be biodegradable in their pure form, but Zep products are typically a combination of several ingredients.

So they cannot be separated from non-biodegradable ingredients and are unable to break down. 

Plus, some of these biodegradable ingredients are slow to break down or are only degradable in specific circumstances.

For example, diisopropanolamine is biodegradable but breaks down slowly. 

While methylisothiazolinone is also technically biodegradable, this process is slow as it is toxic to bacteria. Bacteria play a vital role in biodegradation.

Edetate sodium can biodegrade in laboratory settings. It is extremely difficult to biodegrade in the environment, so it’s considered a persistent substance. 

Research found chloroxylenol was degraded more than 70% by certain types of fungus.

While benzalkonium chlorides are also biodegradable, exposing bleach to the environment is harmful.

6. Are Zep Cleaning Products Compostable?

Zep cleaning products are not compostable because the metal and plastic packaging are not compostable.

Plus, the products themselves can leave behind toxic residues. 

As mentioned earlier, you cannot separate compostable and biodegradable ingredients from the ones that are not. 

7. Are Zep Cleaning Products Recyclable?

The packaging may be recyclable depending on the plastic it was made from.

But the cleaning products themselves are not recyclable.

Some of their plastic packaging may be unsuitable for home composting bins as they use black plastic packaging often.

Due to the dark pigment, the sorting equipment in standard recycling systems cannot spot it, which makes it harder to sort and process.  

In this instance, some drop-off plastic recycling facilities may be able to process the Zep bottles, but these are not accessible to everyone. 

Metal can be recycled indefinitely, but Zep metal bottles may not be suited for your home recycling bin.

Instead, you might have to send it to an independent metal recycling facility. 

8. Are Zep Cleaning Products Sustainable?

Although Zep is taking steps to operate more sustainably, overall, Zep cleaning products do not seem to be sustainable.

Plastic and metal are non-renewable and have a high carbon footprint, with approximately 4.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions coming from plastic production and 10% from metal.

So their packaging choices are unsustainable. 

Plus, as mentioned earlier, the ingredients in many of their products can cause environmental harm, such as bleach.

Many of their products are not biodegradable or compostable either.

9. How to Dispose of Zep Cleaning Products?

If the Zep cleaning product is not empty, it cannot be poured down the drain or go in the bin.

This is considered hazardous waste, and as mentioned earlier, these products can pollute waterways and harm marine life. 

So the product needs to be sent to a hazardous waste disposal service. 

Each product is made from different packaging, so you will need to follow the instructions on the packaging.

Keep in mind while the bottle itself may be suited for recycling, the spray nozzle could be made from an unrecyclable material or is not accepted by your local recycling facility. 

For the Zep packaging that is suited for recycling, ensure the bottle is completely clean.

The product can contaminate your recycle bin meaning the entire contents are not recycled at all. 

In 2018, less than 9% of all the plastic produced in the US was recycled, so contamination can greatly reduce how much recyclable waste is actually recycled. 

3 Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Zep Cleaning Products

Saponin Based Cleaners 

Saponin is a common ingredient in soap. It is plant-based and renewable.

There are concerns that saponin, especially synthetic saponin, is toxic.

Research found natural saponin is less toxic than synthetic saponin and that quillaja saponin is not potent enough to be considered harmful to the environment or humans. 

To learn more about eco-friendly cleaners and soaps, check out our article here.

Lemon Juice

Lemons are renewable, natural, and compostable. 

Lemons also have antibacterial properties. 

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is also natural, renewable, and has antibacterial properties.

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