While everyone is jumping on the environmental bandwagon, Hews Supplies has been offering green solutions for many years reports Journalist Michael Klein.
Joey Hew, managing director of Hews Supplies, says he first started to sell green products 15 years ago when the company moved to offer cleaning products through dispenser programmes that are water-based and therefore eliminate the need to throw away spray bottles every time after use.
Later the company discontinued the use of ammoniated and bleached products and once green, bio-degradable cleaning products became available about three years ago, they were included in the product catalogue. But the offering of green products was not really driven by customer demand, says Hew.
“No, we brought it in and we have been pushing it and promoting it ever since.
“My first shipment of green products, I ended up throwing away because nobody was buying them and being in a warehouse with the heat they broke down,” he says. “I was a little bit ahead of my time.”
Hew’s Supplies offers a complete line of cleaning products, which are used in dispensers in hotels and restaurants. This reduces any additional waste in terms of spray bottles and packaging.
“You use the same bottle and the cleaning material comes in very compact type packaging,” says Hew. “All of the products are green seal or LEED certified and meet all of the standards not only to be environmentally friendly, but to be friendly to the environment they are cleaning.”
While the products itself are bio-degradable, the real issue in Cayman is the reduction of waste, says Hew, “because we don’t recycle here and because we don’t have composting”.
Instead of using bottles or gallons, which have to be thrown away, Ecolab products are dispensered. The users of the product simply refill their existing spray bottles and thereby reduce the amount of waste they produce. The 2.2 litre pouch that contains the cleaning product can be compressed and is made from recycled material.
Corn-based cups, plates and cutlery
Hew’s Supplies also carries a full line of cups forks, knives, cutlery and plate-ware all made from corn, husk or other natural ingredients.
These items and other green products, such as can liners and cleaning products, are also available to walk-in customers in smaller retail packaging at the company’s sister store Restaurant Depot at Beacon Light Plaza, across the street from Hew’s Restaurant and Hotel Supplies.
“So for picnics outdoor parties around the pool, where these things are bound to blow away, these items break down after coming in contact with the environment.”
While some water-front properties such as the Ritz-Carlton use bio-degradable cups by their pool, Hew would ideally like to see legislation passed that prescribes that any property on the beach has to use fully bio-degradable products. “Because I am really saddened, if you are walking on the beach now, the straws look like grass growing out of the sand on the public beaches.
And if they used the corn products they would disintegrate within a matter of days,” he says.
Can liners – be aware of the bags you throw away
We also have the very affordable option of can liners, which is a huge problem here in Cayman, says Hew.
“A lot of people are fooled by the recycled mark. That only means that it is made from recycled material, but that recycled material can stay in the dump for 500 to 1000 years,” he explains.
And if the garbage bag does not degrade, the garbage inside is not broken down either, he adds.
The Polygreen can liners are oxo-biodegradable, which means they typically degrade within three months to two years depending on the landfill conditions. To break down they need oxygen, sunlight and rain. “Cayman is perfect for it. So in our conditions they break down in just a matter of months, depending on the time of the year,” he says.
Pricing of green products
“The great thing about the can liners, and one of the biggest issues with green products, is that they are heat resistant and they are priced comparatively to the regular plastic ones,” states Hew.
Some green products are still more expensive than the more harmful alternatives. This is the case for the cutlery and the plates, he concedes. “The [bio-degradable] chemicals are now coming down to where they are comparable to the regular ones in price.”
But many green products are niche products and often manufactured by smaller producers. As a result the manufacturing costs and price can still be high. “You could find these small boutique chemical companies that were doing the green products. Now the larger companies are doing it as well and the prices have come down,” he says.
On the cutlery side there are only two very big players, explains Hew, and until they start to manufacture these products the prices are still comparatively high.
In the given economic conditions it is therefore difficult, especially for the larger properties to move completely into the green products, admits Hew, but he takes his hat off to the ones that do make a conscious effort to use products that are more environmentally friendly, he says.
What labels to look for?
Hew finds that buying green products is not as easy as it could be.
“When people are shopping they have to be very careful, because there are a lot of companies that have simply just taken the colour out of their product, put it in a nice clear bottle and put a green label on it.”
“We [also] have to be careful because we do not have a compost facility. So, if we say green, it has to be fully bio-degradable and not just bio-degradable in a compost facility.”
Consumers have to read the label to make sure that it is either LEED or green seal certified, he advises.