How I make a difference: making laundry more sustainable
My job is to help fabric care products become greener
Based in Singapore, Sujandi Zhou is the R&I Global Technical Leader of Solvay’s Novecare business unit. With a team of scientists reporting to him, he manages the GBU’s research and innovation activities in the field of fabric care, closely collaborating with leading manufacturers in the industry to develop technologies that will be used in the formulations of detergents, softeners and fabric care ancillaries.
Paving the way for the future of fabric care
Sujandi doesn’t come from a scientific or technological background. He grew up in a small town in the middle of the jungle-covered island of Borneo, Indonesia. He was first exposed to chemistry in high school and felt so drawn to the subject he went on to pursue a Master’s degree and a PhD in nanochemistry in South Korea. He joined Solvay after 10 years at BASF, where he was a scientist at the company’s corporate central research facility and later at the company’s Water Solutions lab, applying his expertise to develop chemical solutions for sustainable water treatment and desalination technologies.
Since my PhD, I’ve been working on green chemistry solutions. The idea of green, sustainable chemistry has been with me since then, and now I’m applying it everyday.
These days, his work still revolves around water, but it’s the water used to wash and care for clothes. “What makes me proud and excited about my job,” he says, “is working with scientists to develop for our customers chemical solutions that their own consumers are asking for: more eco-friendly and bio-based high-performing ingredients for laundry formulations.” Sujandi’s pride also resides in the fact that his team doesn’t just answer demand but is constantly developing solutions that will fill future needs and requests from manufacturers. “My job is to meet consumer demand, but also to pave the way for the future.”
He cites as an example a fabric care solution the team is currently working on: as it prevents colors from fading, consumers will keep their garments longer, ultimately generating a positive impact on sustainability – waste volumes represented by used clothing are a major environmental concern, as they clog landfills worldwide.
Fully focused on sustainability
Staying on the subject of sustainability, Sujandi’s team is also developing biodegradable solutions to replace the synthetic ingredients commonly used in detergents. “Not only biodegradable but bio-based,” he adds. “We’re using raw materials for our polymers that are derived from renewable carbon sources such as sugar cane.” A more advanced project is Repel-O-Tex® Technology, a detergent additive that’s commercially available and makes soil easily removable from synthetic fibers: clothes are easier to clean and whites stay whiter, which once again improves the lifetime and therefore the sustainability profile of garments.
“The whole sustainability aspect is very important,” concludes Sujandi. “Most of our work is focused in that direction.” He adds that having a positive impact on the world is something that provides him drive and purpose to do his job. “Since my PhD, I’ve been working on green chemistry solutions. The idea of green, sustainable chemistry has been with me since then, and now I’m applying it everyday.”