The cleaning industry reflects on Earth Day as Australia records its third-hottest summer

As Earth Day draws attention to the need to reduce plastics and cut back on toxic chemicals, the international cleaning industry celebrates the progress it has made towards sustainability.

Australians marked this year’s Earth Day on Monday 22 April, in the wake of a summer that came close to being the hottest ever on record. Australia has clocked its three hottest summers in the past six years and extreme weather events have dominated the headlines at home and abroad, with the world last month experiencing its warmest March on record.

This year’s Earth Day theme was Planet vs Plastics, intended to raise public awareness of the harmful effects of plastic on humans and our ecosystem and to push for a dramatic reduction in plastics use in the decades ahead. While these targets — phasing out single-use plastics by 2030 and cutting all plastics by 60 percent before 2040 — will present challenges for the cleaning industry, some are looking on the bright side. 

Steve Ashkin, president of The Ashkin Group LLC and chairman of the ISSA Sustainability Committee, has written an open letter in support of this year’s theme, highlighting the dramatic and positive changes already made.

“I am so proud of the professional cleaning industry,” Ashkin said. “Over the years, it has taken bold steps to reduce its use of plastic and become much more sustainability focused.”

Australian businesses are at the forefront of the push to reduce plastic usage. Cleanstar director Lisa Michalson highlights her company’s Bonnie bio range of compostable garbage bags and gloves, which are made from cornstarch and fully composted back into the earth, reducing plastic waste.

“By using compostable garbage bags and other eco-friendly products, our staff, families and clients can help contribute to a more sustainable future and celebrate Earth Day in a meaningful way,” Michalson says.

Sustainability is about more than plastics, of course. A recent Australian study found about around two-thirds of the world’s water supply is contaminated with PFAS — synthetic chemicals used in a wide range of consumer products. 

In the US, the Biden-Harris administration has instructed government contractors to purchase cleaning products free of these toxic “forever chemicals”. The New Zealand government has acted to ban their use in cosmetics from 2026. What this might mean for the Australian cleaning industry is as yet unclear.

Many Australian cleaning companies are increasingly prioritising the use of eco-friendly cleaning solutions that deliver effective results without compromising sustainability. These products are formulated using biodegradable ingredients, renewable resources, and non-toxic chemicals, minimising their impact on the environment and human health.

Agar Cleaning Systems managing director Steve Agar says sustainability has become a key focus for his company, which has taken great steps towards waste reduction and proudly offers an eco-friendly “Green Cleaning” range of products.

“We believe that caring for the environment shouldn’t be confined to a single day,” Agar says. “As a leading provider of cleaning solutions, we understand our responsibility to minimise environmental impact while still delivering the exceptional results our customers have come to expect.”

Ultimately, Agar sees the changes being made by the cleaning industry as empowering the consumer to make choices that will benefit us all.

“Our Good Environmental Choice Australia certification guarantees that our products meet rigorous standards for environmental, health, and ethical practices. That means we can empower our customers to make sustainable choices — on Earth Day and every other day — without compromising on quality or performance.”

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