Carlsbad company cleans up
by Lorin Hallinan
ometimes a closed door turns into a window of opportunity. That's what happened to BCD International in Carlsbad, thanks to some farsighted executives.
Corporate insight has led to the development of a product that has become the very first household cleaner to receive the prestigious Green Seal certification, one of the toughest stamps of approval to obtain.
This is good news for consumers who are looking for environmentally responsible products that live up to their claims.
BCD International manufactures and distributes biodegradable cleaners and degreasers. That's where the BCD acronym comes from. The corporation was formed in 1993, on the heels of creating BCD Cleaner and Degreaser, its Green Seal certified product.
A clean start
Two years ago the company's original intent was to take environmentally responsible cleaners and degreasers from the United States and penetrate the European market. Ambitious idea, but it met with roadblocks right away.
According to J. Guido Smith. BCD's executive vice president, Europe's standards were much stricter that those in the United States. But instead of letting that deter them, corporate executives used the stumbling block to their advantage. "A light bulb went on," said Smith. "We said we should invest in the next generation of environmental products in North America. To do that, what had to happen was to develop a standard. There wasn't a standard at the time. So, the standard we adopted was what was happening in Europe. We've become the leaders in setting the standard."
The end result? Exclusive development of BCD Cleaner and Degreaser by a Swiss research and development company in Hinwil, near Zurich. Starting in April or May 1995, manufacture of the product will transfer to the United States.
The liquid cleaner is a true example of environmental responsibility. Its organic ingredients are biodegradable. The light amber-colored fluid is sold in concentrate, with no added perfume. One ounce is usually mixed with 16 ounces of water. The lemon/lime scent is a natural part of the formula, whose active ingredient is a form of glycerine.
BCD Cleaner and Degreaser is positioned as a product that replaces multipurpose cleaners, protects the environment, and allows consumers to save money because it is concentrated. According to Smith, the product is strong enough to literally degrease an engine, but is safe enough to wash grease and grime from your car and afterward, even your hands.
BCD International stands behind the product's biodegradable claims. "The biggest complaint in the United States is with green products," said Smith. "They just don't perform. They use claims like biodegradability, but that can be as broad as it is long, and it can be misleading. Just because it says it's biodegradable doesn't mean it's safe. It may be dangerous to humans."
Taking in hand the strict European standard that states active ingredients must biodegrade within 28 days, BCD International has made its product so that it is 99.7 percent biodegradable within the same amount of time.
Not many, if any, "green" products in this country can live up to that standard. That quality helped BCD gain the distinctive Green Seal - the blue globe with the green check.
Going for the green
This is the first household cleaner to receive the "Green Seal of Approval." BCD has met or exceeded Green Seal's standard for environmental impact packaging and performance. Green Seal is a nonprofit company in Washington, D.C. that scientifically tests products and awards a "seal of approval" to the ones that cause less harm to the environment. Green Seal's environmental standard for general purpose household cleaners was developed in a public review process involving industry, consumers, environmentalists and government agencies.
According to Green Seal President Norman Dean, "Americans purchase nearly a billion packages of household cleaners each year. There's probably no other class of household chemicals that people come into contact with more often - they're used everywhere, and the cumulative effect of these products on the environment can be significant." Dean continued, "Household cleaners such as BCD's that meet the Green Seal standard will pose less risk of harm to users of the product and to aquatic life, cause less photochemical smog than other cleaners, and help reduce solid waste and toxic materials that go into landfills or incinerators."
To date, Green Seal has awarded its seal of approval to just 112 products and certifies products in 52 categories. The organization develops standards for about 15 new product categories each year.
"When Green Seal came out with their standard, a lot of people said it was impossible to meet," noted Smith. "It goes beyond the product's biodegradeability; it looks at packaging, too. But we were out before Green Seal came out with their standard. We did our homework and it paid off. We asked to see the standard, and then we asked for certification. Green Seal is very fair, but very strict."
The container, a soft standup pouch, is turning out to be a trendsetter. "Source reduction is the big environmental message of the '90s," said Smith. "It's like precycling. If I can solve 70 percent of your problem, that solves a lot. Our pouch uses 70 percent less plastic that traditional bottles. We use a lot less resources, and it's a lighter weight, so it's cheaper to get to market."
While the company's biggest clients are in the industrial market, consumers can find the product easily. In San Diego, the product is sold at Home Base, Home Depot, Dixieline, and Thrifty Drug stores.
BCD International is winding up its test marketing of the product, which hit the market in August 1993. It's distributed to all 50 states, and 226 sales reps are pounding the pavement trying to sell it to automotive stores. More aggressive marketing will start in 1995, according to Smith.
For a company that's trying to set new standards for household and professional cleaners, BCD International is doing one heck of a responsible job.
For more info about Green Seal, call (202) 872-6400. You can contact BCD at (800) 422-9290.
Lorin Hallinan is a freelance author and former editor for the Coast Dispatch and Carlsbad Journal community newspapers. A 13-year San Diego resident, she lives in Carlsbad.