Alternative cleaning products that are safe for the user and safe for the environment have long been sought by consumers. And that trend is likely to become more mainstream in 2005 with strict regulations that took effect Dec. 31, 2004, setting volatile organic compounds (VOC) standards in nine states — with several other states expected to follow.

The regulations, which are intended to reduce hazardous materials being released into the atmosphere, are expected to propel green solvents to account for 25% of the $3 billion solvents industry by 2007.

Kentucky-based Soy Technologies is preparing for that growth with its biobased product families, which include SoyGreen Bio-Solvents, SoyStop Anti-Graffiti Barrier System, SoyFast All Purpose Cleaners, SoyDerm Waterless Hand Cleaners, and other specialty products — all of which are 2005 VOC compliant.

Soy Technologies CEO Randy Frees says his company's products meet with success because of their environmentally conscious appeal.

“Our SoyFast All Purpose Cleaners are competing well with other cleaners like Simple Green and 409 because many of those don't meet VOC regulations,” Frees says. He reports that their soy-based stainless steel cleaner and graffiti removers are also popular because of their safety aspects and performance.

The company's SoyGreen Graffiti wipes and sprays are being used by the Metropolitan Transit Authority of New York City for removing graffiti from subway cars and buses. They're also being considered by several school systems including New York City, Nassau and Suffolk County schools in Long Island and New Jersey City schools.

Other safe alternatives to conventional, toxic petroleum cleaners can be found in Florida Chemical Company's unique CITRUSoy product line, which offers products targeted at different household, institutional and industrial cleaning applications. CITRUSoy Super High Flash is formulated for liquid hand soaps, kitchen and bathroom cleaners, and automotive-care products. CITRUSoy High Flash is designed for tougher cleaning applications such as industrial and waterless hand cleaners, nail-polish removers, ink cleaners, and tar, asphalt and adhesive removers.

Other Industries Seek Earth Friendly, Too

Safe, soy-based alternatives are finding a niche in other industries as well. In the printing industry, soy-based toner made from soybean meal and oil is joining soy ink in replacing petroleum-based products.

Bhima Vijayendran, a researcher with Battelle, the science and technology institute that is developing the toner in collaboration with the Ohio Soybean Council, explains that soy-based toner has the ability to make a significant impact in various printing markets because it addresses two key issues: recyclability and total recovery of waste paper from offices. He says that soy-based toner offers good print quality but is easier to de-ink during paper recycling than petroleum-based inks, resulting in better fiber recovery and a cleaner, brighter pulp.

In the construction and mining industries, DustDown, a soy-based dust suppressant, is being used to create a safer workplace and cleaner environment. Created by Gemtek, DustDown extends moisture life to be more effective in controlling airborne dust emissions, and, because it's 100% biobased, soil, groundwater and wildlife are protected from hazardous chemicals found in conventional dust suppressants.

“Buy Bio” Initiative Launched

As set in the 2002 Farm Bill, federal agencies are being asked to increase their use of biobased industrial products. To that end, the U.S. Department of Energy recently launched a “Buy Bio” Initiative whereby agencies will be required to purchase biobased industrial products when they are available, cost-effective and meet performance requirements of the federal user.

Several federal agencies already use soy-based products, cleaners and biodiesel, and report great success. One shining example comes from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which reports that Gemtek soy, oat and corn general-purpose cleaners have improved working conditions for janitors and significantly reduced costs by cutting the number of solvents previously used by janitors from 33 to seven.

A new Web site, sponsored by the Biobased Manufacturer's Association, has been developed to make purchasing biobased products more convenient (see www.biobased.com). And the soybean checkoff has also developed informative biobased product kits geared to assist government purchasers.