Detergent based on residual ethanol from beer brewing process
Ecover, the Belgian manufacturer of ecological laundry and cleaning products, has been focusing for some time on replacing petrochemical with natural ingredients in its products. Now we want to go one step further in circularity by extracting certain raw materials from residual streams from other industries.
For example, we started the Waste Ethanol from Beer (WEB) project in collaboration with ABInBev. The idea is to test whether we can replace the ethanol ingredient in our detergent formula with waste ethanol that ABInBev obtains from the production of non-alcoholic and poor beer.
We launched the new limited edition detergent with a major, well thought-out advertising campaign. In doing so, we not only wanted to raise consumerawareness of the green story around circular raw materials, but also to elicit an innovative response from the rest of the industry.
The project resulted in a detergent that consists for at least 25% of residual ethanol obtained from the production of alcohol-free beer. The product was given the appropriate name 'too good to waste'.
The pilot product, available in a limited edition, was immediately sold out everywhere, partly thanks to a successful advertising campaign. It generated an unprecedented demand for similar initiatives, both from retail partners and consumers.
Within our company, the appetite to increase our commitment to such promotions has grown significantly. In fact, further research and implementation of similar initiatives was included in our corporate goals for the next 5 years.
Via the Too Good To Waste Hackathon, a brainstorming event around circular economy, we presented our project to some 40 companies. It yielded a lot of new leads around circular raw materials and will probably lead to new partnerships.
MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS LEARNED
Because we were working with a different raw material and a different supplier than usual, we had to deviate from our normal working and validation procedure. This created some logistical challenges. To reduce the production and planning complexity, we opted for a limited edition of only one product.
Using an ethanol (waste) stream as a raw material in cleaning products was legally complex. For example, there is currently no established process to obtain a raw material declaration for a raw material that is subject to excise duties, but is also registered as waste.
Because the ethanol extraction process is not yet fully optimized, there may be variations between different batches of ethanol, which can cause quality differences. Therefore, we limited production to one batch of ethanol. This is a stumbling block inherent in the use of side streams.
Our dish soap was the ideal product to test the new formula. It has a low price, a high rotation rate and a wide distribution in stores. That combined with a successful marketing campaign translated into a quickly sold out product with demand for more.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
WEB is the first project where we use circular raw materials to make the ingredients in our formulas even more environmentally friendly. Clearly, we see the use of circular flows as the next step in our raw materials policy.
Specifically, we have included the further research and implementation of similar initiatives in our business goals for the next 5 years. We have the ambition to use other, more complex ingredients from circular streams in our production in addition to ethanol.