Innovating new green ingredients for everyday cleaning products

A Manchester firm is set to double in size after developing innovative new chemicals that will help make products from shampoo to washing-up liquid greener and more sustainable.

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Read time: 5 mins      Added: 10/09/2021

Libra Speciality Chemicals, headquartered in Irlam and part of the Sheffield-based GRI Group, specialises in manufacturing and blending the active ingredients used in some of the world's biggest personal care and household cleaning brands.

Now its in-house scientists have innovated new low-salt formulations of commonly-used chemicals called betaines, which perform better as formulators, while also requiring a third less energy to manufacture using Libra's bespoke in-house manufacturing technology.

Well-known brands are already working to reformulate their products to incorporate the new ingredients, which contain just a tenth of the salt content commonly found in betaines, and could be on the shelves within twelve months.

Libra Speciality Chemicals has invested £3.5 million in a new plant to manufacture the low-salt betaines, in a move that also increases total betaine capacity by around two thirds.

The investment has been supported by a £2million loan through the Lloyds Bank Clean Growth Finance Initiative, which provides discounted lending to help businesses invest in reducing their environmental impact.

The Artificial Intelligence-powered plant can produce more than a thousand tonnes of betaines a week and can be operated by a single worker.

Betaine Plant

Graham Royle said: “This is a transformational investment that will help create a new generation of environmentally-friendly, renewable plant-based cleaning products that are sulphate-free, energy efficient and create zero waste.

“We are committed to ‘Green Chemistry’, seeking ever-better environmental and sustainable solutions for everyday products.

“I’m very optimistic about the future. We’re innovating and winning new business in new markets around the world.”

Libra Speciality Chemicals was founded in 1971 and employs 65 staff at its base in Irlam, which is 100% powered by renewable energy.

Since joining the GRI Group in 2010, revenues have quadrupled to £40 million and the workforce has doubled in size, with customers including Procter & Gamble, Unilever and PZ Cussons.

Lee Bloodworth, relationship director at Lloyds Bank, said: “The innovation and commitment to sustainability shown by Libra Speciality Chemicals is truly impressive and can support the development of a new generation of eco-friendly cleaning products.

“Growing consumer demand for sustainable products and the developing ‘green economy’ presents lots of opportunities. The Lloyds Bank Clean Growth Finance Initiative helps businesses like Libra Speciality Chemicals to seize these opportunities for growth and diversification.

“We were happy to support this development and we will continue to help businesses as they move to win new growth opportunities by transitioning to low-carbon, sustainable business models.”

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