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Surfactants from Native Plants

Surfactants are wash-active substances used to make laundry detergents and household cleaners effective. During the wash cycle for clothes or dishes, surfactants act to suspend grease and other non-water-soluble substances in the water so that hey can be rinsed away. Surfactants have traditionally been obtained from petrochemicals, but we now have resource-friendly methods that do not depend on the use of crude oil.

Anyone searching for alternatives to petrochemical surfactants cannot avoid reliance on palm kernel or coconut oil. Controversy surrounds the use of tropical vegetable oils, but the world's demand for them continues to grow.

Domestic cultivation preferred:
Frosch uses surfactants made from rapeseed, linseed and olive oils.

Werner & Mertz is aware of this issue and is therefore pursuing two avenues to satisfy its own sustainability demands: on the one hand, we have long used surfactant raw materials that are 100% RSPO sustainability-certified pursuant to ‘Book&Claim’.

For another, Werner & Mertz is increasing its use of surfactants based on domestic oil-producing plants such as rapeseed, olives and flax. The composition and chemical properties of domestic (European) vegetable oils differ greatly from those of palm kernel and coconut oils. In chemical terms, the tropical oils are very stable. In other words, because light and high temperatures do not cause the oils to age quickly, their qualities hardly change over time. The oils from domestic cultivation, however, consist of unstable chains of molecules that are "more active" chemically and therefore subject to rapid changes brought on by light and oxygen.

Werner & Mertz has nevertheless succeeded, with the help of competent partners, in developing a new type of surfactant based on native oils that is suitable for use in our detergents and cleaners. In the process we have made sure that our products retain their familiar and highly appreciated properties.

In 2013 Werner & Mertz converted several formulas for Frosch cleaning and care products, which now contain between 10 and 100% surfactants made from European vegetable oils. Eventually the entire palette of Frosch products will be converted to the sustainably produced surfactants.

Native cultivation preferred

Werner & Mertz products contain many other plant-based ingredients besides surfactants. Here too we prefer to use vegetable substances from native production purchased from European partners. Numerous advantages come with the use of surfactants made from plants cultivated in Europe, including:
  • Precluding the use of cultivated areas in the tropics for this purpose and reducing the associated risks, such as destruction of the rainforest and competition with food production
  • No monocultures
  • Short transportation routes
  • Use of rapidly renewable raw materials based on European vegetable oils
  • Promotion of traditional crop cultivation
  • No dependence on surfactants from tropical cultivation
  • Preservation and promotion of biodiversity

The utilization of native oil-producing plants from sustainable cultivation puts variety into the often unbalanced crop rotation and promotes biological diversity.

The rapeseed oil for our surfactants comes from European countries including Germany, Poland and France. The linseed oil is cultivated in France and Belgium and the olive oil for other surfactants comes from Southern Europe, specifically from Spain, Italy and Greece.

We emphasize the use of oils specifically intended for industrial purposes. By adhering to this policy we ensure that these oils do not compete with oils in foodstuffs meant for human consumption.

Protecting biodiversity and renewable raw materials

Using surfactants and other ingredients from European cultivation brings enormous ecological benefits. Here too Werner & Mertz works with NABU (German Society for the Preservation of Nature) on biodiversity protection. Together we make sure that renewable raw materials are used reasonably and sustainably.

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European Surfactants Initiative

You'll find detailled information about the Surfactants -Project of the Frosch Brand here.

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Awarded the German
Sustainability Prize