Demand, cheaper technologies prompt move to eco-friendly household goods

Both Nikol and Sano-Sushi recently launched degradable sandwich and garbage bags.

eco friendly plastic bags (photo credit: Yoni Reif/Courtesy)
eco friendly plastic bags
(photo credit: Yoni Reif/Courtesy)
The next time you go to the supermarket, you might notice new "green" products in the household items section. Both Nikol, a division of Hogla-Kimberly, and Sano-Sushi recently launched degradable sandwich and garbage bags. The sudden appearance of eco-friendly household products from major Israeli companies was prompted by a mixture of new technology and consumer demand, executives at the two companies told The Jerusalem Post this week. The new Nikol bags degrade "within 12-24 months when disposed of in landfill or soil in the presence of oxygen, heat and stress," according to the box. A new chemical additive was recently developed that breaks down the polymers of the Sano-Sushi bags, but at the same time, does not interfere with any of the bag's other properties such as strength and sealing, Geva Marcus, Sano-Sushi Paper and Complimentary Division Manager, told the Post on Tuesday. "They started developing the additive a few years back and it has caught on in Europe and the US. We introduced it in Israel a few months ago," Marcus said. The fact that the technology to make the bags degradable did not make them hugely more expensive was a critical factor, Nikol kitchen care manager Tzipi Hamer told the Post on Wednesday. "As soon as we found a solution that was generally feasible, we decided to make the switch. We were not looking to create a vastly more expensive niche product. The degradable products are the same price as the regular ones, something that was enabled by the new technology," Hamer explained. Rather than creating a new "nature line," Nikol was switching to degradable bags altogether, she said. "It's not a new product line, we're switching over entirely," she said. According to Hamer, Nikol is the national leader in kitchen care products. Marc Debremaeker, Sano-Sushi deputy general manager for development, said that Sano-Sushi would also phase out its regular bags if sales of the eco-friendly ones were good. Another critical factor that prompted the push toward the new products was consumer demand, both Hemer and Debremaeker said. "For example, many schools started telling the pupils not to bring their lunches in sandwich bags, because they pollute the environment and they fill up landfills because they don't disintegrate. "We started getting calls asking us if we had a solution. Lunch boxes didn't really answer mothers' needs, and we saw that there was a genuine demand," Hamer said. She said the company would continue to put out more "green" products in the future. This is not the first time Sano-Sushi has tried to introduce environment-friendly products. The firm tried to introduce them about 10-12 years ago, but they never took off, according to Debremaeker. "We tried, but people just didn't buy them. Now we think that people might be interested again. It's very much in the air in Europe and overseas. Perhaps the Israeli public is now ready for it. Sano-Sushi has several other eco-friendly products such as dishwasher soap tablets, toilet bowl cleaner and fabric softener. They are made without petro-chemicals and are vegetable-based instead. Debremaeker outlined an interesting dilemma the company had regarding its fabric softener. "We have been trying to introduce a concentrated non-petrochemical fabric softener. The environmental benefits are many: from the savings in plastic (from smaller bottles), to the savings in gas because fewer trucks are needed, and other benefits. "However, Israelis don't buy concentrated softener. They like their four-liter bottles. We want to make the switch to just offering the concentrated softener, but, well, you can bring a horse to water, but you can't make him drink," Debremaeker said wryly. Both Debremaeker and Hamer stressed that their companies had long-standing environmental values and would continue to innovate in that direction. Sano-Sushi's Markus pointed out that the company was the first to offer bagged refills that reduced the production of plastic bottles. Debremaeker added that the company stopped using Freon years ago, which had been found to harm the ozone layer. Meanwhile, Mondi-Hadera Paper has recently introduced a recycled printer paper line called "Yarok" (Green). It is comprised of 50 percent recycled fibers, 70% of which is post consumer waste from recycled office paper, and 30% of which is waste from the manufacture of paper, according to the package. It sells at Office Depot for NIS 19 per package of 500 sheets, about NIS 2 cheaper than some of the non-recycled brands.