A Trip Down Memory Lane - A Quick Review of Our Progress

By Marvin Klein, President and Founder of PortionPac

It is good for all of us to remember the fight Green Seal had to survive, and how the industry fought any certification process. It is also good to look back at where we came from and how much we have accomplished together. Being an old man with 60 years in the industry, I have lived through many of these changes, and I hope the following short review will encourage the current generation to fight on and not become discouraged by the slow national progress on many of our goals.  

For example, for dozens of years the market demanded very hazardous floor finish strippers and germicides that endangered the health of everyone in the building, especially the janitor and housekeepers who applied the formulations. In-home use of bleach and ammonia was, and is even today, a major health hazard. Too many leaders in our industry are despondent because of the slow progress (or what seems to them to be slow progress) of management and industry forces to improve their commitment to the important and easy changes that can and should be implemented now. So let's take a trip down memory lane. 

When I joined the industry with the Hild Floor Machine Company in 1956, detergents, waxes, strippers and shampoos were sold in 5 and 55-gallon drums. First there was a safety hazard. If you  have ever tried to transport a 550-pound drum I don't have to go much further. There were countless accidents. But then the real mystery was how to dilute a product according to directions of 10-, 15- or 20-to-1 ratios with water.

The problem started with filling the mop bucket with water. Since there were no gallon markings on the bucket the janitor did not know how much water he or she had put into the bucket. But let’s say they measured the water and put three gallons into their mop bucket. Step two would be adding the detergent. Let's make it easy and say the instructions call for mixing the product 16-to-1 with water. Anyone want to tell me how much detergent the janitor needed to add to get an effective mopping solution? But let's be optimistic and say the janitor measured exactly three gallons of water and knew that he or she needed 24 ounces of concentrate (one cup to a gallon). I am not being derogatory to our industry leaders, so I will use myself as an example. I would now have a 55 gallon drum of concentrate and want to get 24 ounces out of it to make up three gallons of  detergent at a 16–to-1 ratio.

Well, by now you get the idea that neither I nor most presidents of chemical companies would have much of a chance to fill the bucket correctly, figure the dilution ratio and withdraw the right amount of concentrate from the drum….and get it in the bucket ready for work. So as you can imagine proper dilution was a rare occurrence, and it resulted in poor cleaning, extra work, waste of material and of course environmental impact.

But even that mess was not the real problem. The real problem was health.

Janitorial work was very dangerous, and in many facilities the problem persists to this day. Products like laundry detergents give the user a big measuring cup to add a small amount of detergent to the load…but the vast majority fill the cup and that can result in health problems.

Well, there is good news on the horizon. Various measuring devices, more portion control packaging and new retail laundry and dishwasher water-soluble pacs are gaining market share. In the last few months Consumer Reports has rated these products as the most effective and economical products for home use. Our business has continued to grow with more major corporations, institutions, educational facilities and food service establishments recognizing the key benefits of portion control cleaners. In addition, formal education of cleaning personnel is becoming standard with corresponding reductions in health and safety problems. And, of course, Green Seal and the national trend toward independently-certified formulations have made a major positive impact on the environment.

There is a lot more to be done, and I look forward to watching the progress that our young managers and owners are achieving in all the areas we discussed. There is a lot to discuss and maybe I will get another chance to share my thoughts and hear your ideas...There are some current needs that are just as critical to our industry that I would like to share with you in the future. But for now, thanks for your attention and I look forward to your thoughts and comments.

About Marvin Klein's Company - PortionPac: PortionPac has 30 Green Seal-certified products.

PortionPac was founded on social and environmental principles. Since 1964, sustainability has led our business, our products, our relationships, and our success. Decades before it became a buzzword, PortionPac’s founders, Syd Weisberg and Marvin Klein, believed in the value of sustainability and what it meant for the environment, the industry and the people that lived and worked in both. Built on a foundation of environmental stewardship and social responsibility, PortionPac continues to strive toward creating the world’s most sustainable solutions for clean buildings. For us, being a leader in sustainability means considering the impact of everything we do, across all our operations. Sustainable thinking permeates our entire company. It’s in our systems, our solutions, our facility and our founding principles. PortionPac has always seen sustainability as an opportunity: a way to differentiate us from the competition and a chance to do our part. We’ve never viewed it as a hindrance or an expense—it’s just the way we do business. With our pre-measured packaging, safer product systems, and on-going education, PortionPac’s sustainable solutions help improve people’s health, the environment and our customers’ bottom line.