Understanding Biotechnology

Categories: Sustainability & ESG

By Steve Teasdale | December 30, 2020 << Back to Articles Understanding Biotechnology

Since the beginning of 2020, there have been different research studies released, all discussing the projected growth of something called the “specialty enzyme market.” You may or may not have heard of this product category or sector because it also goes by names such as “biotechnology,” “white biotechnology,” “industrial enzyme products,” “bio-based products,” or in the professional cleaning industry, “microbial-based” cleaning products (MBCPs).

However, no matter what term is used, the projection is that the number and variety of products made using this technology are expected to increase significantly over the next few years. For instance, in March 2020, a study by Adroit Market Research, a global analytics and research company, reported that “the global white biotechnology enzymes market is steadily growing and estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.9 % during the forecast period of 2019-2025.”1

This report was followed in April by another study, this one from the research group, ReportLinker. According to this report, the specialty enzymes market, now valued at about US$10 billion, is expected to reach US$14.7 billion by 2025.2

As to why these biotechnology products are expected to grow significantly over the next few years, the ReportLinker study states it is primarily due to a rise in demand for “non-harmful biological substances” that can be used in a wide variety of industries. These would include the pharmaceutical industry, clothing industry, cosmetic industry, biofuel industry, the manufacturing of synthetic tires, and, as we shall discuss in greater detail later, professional cleaning products.

Terms and definitions

Before going any further, we need to define a few of the terms we have used or will be using, starting with biotechnology. This refers to a technology that utilizes biological systems and living organisms to create or develop new products used for a variety of different, and usually beneficial, applications.

For instance, yeast is a single-celled microorganism, and as we know, it has been used for thousands of years to make bread rise. The food and beverage industry has been using enzymes to develop different types of beers and beverages for centuries.

This tells us biotechnology is certainly not new. However, it was not until the 1970s that more extensive research was undertaken to see if other products could be created using this form of technology. One of the results of this research is that biotechnology now comes in four primary colors:

Red biotechnology is used for the production of drugs, including antibiotic medicines. It is also used in stem cell therapy because it helps organs grow.

White biotechnology, also known as industrial biotechnology, is mostly found in the industrial and manufacturing sectors. It is used to make a variety of products, including chemicals, the active ingredients used in some environmentally friendly cleaning solutions, plastics, fibers for clothing, and biofuels.

Blue biotechnology uses aquatic organisms to help preserve a variety of marine species, restore aquatic wildlife, and develop different types of medicines.

Green biotechnology is the use of genetically altered plants and agricultural products to create, among other things, environmentally friendly cleaning solutions used for all types of professional cleaning tasks. Because these cleaning solutions are derived from plants, they are typically environmentally friendly. Many have also been certified by such organizations as ECOLOGO® and Ecolabel in Europe and they also help promote sustainability.

Green cleaning and MBCPs

When green cleaning products were first introduced into the professional cleaning industry, advocates for these products often felt like they were swimming upstream. This is because virtually all of these early green products shared two things in common:

  • They were costly, typically more expensive than traditional cleaning products.
  • They did not match traditional products when it came to performance.

Because of increased customer demand, most manufacturers of these early products went back to the drawing board. They were looking for new ingredients and new ways to develop green cleaning products and address these challenges. To do so, however, they often used standard research techniques, such as those first used to make traditional cleaning products.

However, some manufacturers took an entirely different approach. They believed, as Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “We cannot solve a problem by using the same approach that we had used to create it.” As a result, in the early 1990s, at least one manufacturer started developing green cleaning solutions using biotechnology. Instead of relying solely on traditional chemistry, these products combine the benefits of sustainably-sourced raw materials with living microorganisms.*

When used on surfaces, these microorganisms were able to degrade soils, as well as food residue and grease, so they could be more easily removed. The products were also found to be able to eliminate odors and, as a further benefit, they continued working for several hours after they had been applied to a surface.

As mentioned earlier, these cleaning products are also considered environmentally friendly, some environmentally preferable, and do promote sustainability. However, there are drawbacks to producing these cleaning products.

For instance, because these cleaning solutions are being made in a different way, they require considerable expertise and technological skills. Manufacturing these cleaning products with what are called “bio-active” organisms, usually involves the development of unique processes, procedures, and an adherence to an entirely new set of quality standards.

This is likely one reason why there has not been a rush of manufacturers making these products. It requires an investment in time, resources, knowledge, and skills.

Additionally, because of the necessary expertise, and because there are no set manufacturing standards or guidelines that all biotechnology manufacturers must adhere to, some studies have found that the performance of MBCPs can vary. As a result, distributors and end-customers interested in these products may need to use due diligence when selecting them.

The future of cleaning with biotechnologies

The evolution of biotechnologies in professional cleaning appears to be advancing. Its growth is reflected in the studies mentioned earlier. Plus, more products developed using biotechnology are becoming available. These include floor cleaners and degreasers, typically some of the most powerful cleaning solutions in professional cleaning.

Because of COVID-19, some biotechnology companies are also putting time and resources into developing disinfectants. However, others are not, and the reason may surprise you: These companies believe that effective and thorough cleaning is all that is needed. Apparently, the CDC agrees:

“Most, if not all housekeeping surfaces need to be cleaned only with soap and water…depending on the degree of contamination,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “The actual physical removal of microorganisms and soil by wiping or scrubbing is probably as important, if not more so, than any antimicrobial…cleaning agent.”3

The “physical removal of microorganisms and soil” is what biotechnology cleaning solutions do best, with little or no impact on the user or the environment. 

1 March 3, 2020, GlobeNewswire Inc. All Rights Reserved

2 April 02, 2020, 22:42 ET | Source: ReportLinker

3 Guidelines for Environmental Infection Control in Health-Care Facilities Recommendations of CDC and the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC), 2003 Updated July 2019

* Bacillus species encompass more than 70 different types of bacteria, most of them found in soil and water. They are sometimes referred to as “good bacteria” because they are used in cleaning solutions, probiotic food supplements, and to make medicines, including antibiotics.

About the Author.

Steve Teasdale is co-founder and vice president of InnuScience. Founded in Canada in 1992, InnuScience manufactures biotechnology cleaning solutions for professional cleaning as well as the home consumer. He can be reached through his company website at [email protected].