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DoSomething says dishwasher tablets have high levels of phospate

dishwashingDoSomething’s environmentalist has announced manufacturers should commit to a two-year phase out of phosphate from all auto dishwashing detergents sold in supermarkets.

“As it currently stands, Australian supermarkets are selling phosphate-based auto-dish detergents that would not be allowed in many American supermarkets,” said Jon Dee of DoSomething. “This needs to stop. If American shops won’t sell them, then neither should we.”

A new report has found alarming levels of phosphates in 62 per cent of the auto dishwasher tablets sold in Coles and Woolworths stores nationally over the last 12 months:

  • More than 30 per cent of the total ingredients in these products was phosphate.
  • This means that close to two in every three dishwasher tablets sold in the last 12 months in these supermarkets contained phosphates.
  • The report estimates that more than 242 million dishwasher cycles over the last 12 months contained phosphates.
  • Sales data shows this led to an estimated 1,324 tonnes of phosphate being used in Australia’s auto dishwasher detergents (tablets, powders and liquids) over the past 12 months alone.

In 2010, Dee has led the successful campaign to phase out phosphates in Australia’s laundry detergents.  Phosphates are used in dishwashing detergents because they soften hard water and stop food from being redistributed back onto your dishes. However, it can cause nutrient pollution.

So, if waste water containing phosphates ends up in waterways, it can contribute to algal blooms that can starve aquatic life of oxygen. These are harmful to humans because they produce elevated toxins and bacterial growth that can make people sick.

“We already allow far too many nutrients to end up in our river systems. Auto dishwashing products are not the only contributor to this problem, but they’re a factor where we can take immediate action,” said Dee.

There is good news, however.

“Our audit and report shows that many well-known brands like Fairy, Ecostore, Morning Fresh and Earth Choice are all phosphate-free,” said Dee.

“If those products can be phosphate-free, then all auto dish detergent in Australia should be phosphate-free too.

“All major brands had at least one product that was phosphate-free. This shows that every company has the ability to create phosphate-free formulations for their products. They can easily make the switch without impacting on the quality of the wash.”

Other findings include:

  • Finish, the market leading brand in Australia, was the brand containing the most phosphates. Over the last 12 months, 14 Finish products contained an estimated 1,293 tonnes of phosphate.
  • Only a third (34%) of the auto dishwasher detergent sold in Coles and Woolies is phosphate-free. However, Aldi’s three dishwasher detergents were phosphate-free.
  • The phosphate status of four of the 43 products found on shelf could not be identified as their packaging did not include an ingredients list. The majority of these four products were “no-name” brands.
  • Since 1992, ABS stats show that the percentage of Australian households using a dishwasher has gone up from 25 per cent to 55 per cent.

What can people do?

  • Sign DoSomething’s “Ban phosphates in auto dishwashing detergents” petition at –
  • Switch to auto dishwashing detergents that don’t contain phosphates.
  • Write to brands containing phosphates and ask them to phase out their use.

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