Maryland Green Purchasing
Janitorial Supplies and Services
Janitorial supplies help owners and managers maintain clean, healthy, safe and functional buildings. These products are necessary but some might also present health and environmental risks. Environmental impacts come from the raw materials needed to manufacture the products. Other common issues stem from the waste generated from over packaging and the improper and excessive use of janitorial supplies. A simple solution to the issue of waste is to purchase products meant for repeated use and that are biodegradable, where applicable.
To reduce harmful environmental impacts and support the public health of maintenance staff and building occupants, the Green Purchasing Committee has set out guidelines for the procurement of janitorial supplies and services.
When procuring janitorial supplies and in consideration of the environment and public health, state agencies are encouraged to use the following products:
- Non-Toxic: Heavy and repeated occupational exposure to and inhalation of toxins may present hazards to a person’s central nervous system, blood, liver and kidneys.
- Free of (or low in) Volatile Organic Compounds: Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are gases emitted by the organic chemical ingredients (also known as off-gassing) in a wide array of products, including cleaning supplies. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, concentrations of some VOCs are consistently higher indoors than outdoors. Additionally, elevated concentrations can persist in the air long after product use is discontinued, and exposure can result in eye and respiratory tract irritation, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders and memory impairment.
The CDC publishes factsheets on various VOCs (including Xylene, Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene, and Hexane) and health-related exposure risks and impacts.
- Free of Asthmagens: According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, asthma affects more than 26 million people in the United States. Respiratory irritants, including chemicals and fragrances found in cleaning, disinfectant and floor care products, can provoke or exacerbate asthma. The Association
of Occupational and Environmental Clinics lists hundreds of asthmagens that might be found in occupational environments. One example, commonly used in cleaning supplies, is monoethanolamine (MEA). MEA is frequently found in detergents, disinfectants and surfactants. It is also a common solvent in floor strippers.
- Biodegradable: "Ready biodegradability" refers to a material’s, or in this case, ingredient’s ability to be broken down by microorganisms into simple compounds relatively quickly and safely in an aquatic aerobic environment. Products made from synthetic compounds (or natural compounds that have been heavily processed) and in combinations that do not exist in nature cannot be broken down by microorganisms and thus persist in the environment, often with negative impacts for ecosystems,. This can pose an environmental threat given that many cleaning products (soap, detergent, etc.) find their way down the drain and into the local watershed.
- Reusable: Whenever possible, choose reusable products (e.g., cotton rags, washcloths, towels) over single-use disposable products (e.g., paper towels, scrubbers) to reduce the demand for new resources.