Do Something about... phosphates in laundry detergents

See how Do Something brought about a phase-out ban on phosphates in Australia


Australians love to wash clothes - we carry out 1.9 billion laundry washes every year! When Do Something found out that 308 million Americans are only able to buy phosphate-free laundry detergents, we asked the question "why can't 22 million Australians do the same?"

As a result of the impact that laundry detergent phosphates had on waterways, America banned phosphates in the mid-nineties. Do Something wanted to achieve a similar result here in Australia - to that end we launched our 'National Phosphate Ban' campaign in October 2010.

Our campaign position was that Australian supermarkets were selling phosphate-based laundry detergents that would not be allowed in American supermarkets. We argued that if the Americans wouldn't sell them, then we shouldn't either.

Our discussions with ALDI about the issue led to the campaign's first major breakthrough. On April 3rd 2011, they kindly announced that they were phasing out phosphates in laundry detergents in over 250 ALDI stores by the end of 2013. Our phosphate fact sheet that was launched at this time can be downloaded here.

Following the announcement by ALDI, we began to liaise with Coles and Woolworths, which lead to our second major breakthrough. Coles joined with us to announce that they would ban phosphates from all home brand laundry detergents in 2012. Woolworths also wrote to us to confirm that would remove phosphates from all private label laundry products by the end of 2011.

To coincide with our Coles and Woolworths announcement, Do Something joined forces with Unilever to announce that OMO - Australia's biggest selling laundry detergent - had gone phosphate-free. All three Unilever brands - OMO, Surf and Drive - are now phosphate-free and are  currently rolling out in supermarkets with the 'NP' sign on-pack. Sebastian Lazell, the Chairman of Unilever, joined Do Something's Jon Dee in undertaking media interviews for the announcement.

The Unilever approach brought about a major environmental benefit. As Do Something Founder Jon Dee said at the time, "When Unilever removed phosphate from OMO, the product reduced its greenhouse emissions footprint by approximately 30%.  That's a major result and it was achieved without increasing the price or impacting the quality of the wash."

As Sebastian Lazell, the Chairman of Unilever stated, "Our global life cycle research revealed that phosphate has a higher greenhouse gas impact than other ingredients, so we've replaced it with lower greenhouse gas alternatives. For the OMO range this equates to an approximate 30% reduction in the greenhouse gas footprint of the product, and by simply using new OMO, an Australian household can save 20 kg of CO2 a year."
According to Unilever's figures, if all Australian households switched to OMO, it would save 85,000 tonnes of CO2 in total - that's the equivalent of taking 33,000 cars off the road.

As of June 2011, all major companies in the Australian detergent industry have now implemented or agreed to phase out phosphates in household laundry detergents.

The final companies to commit to the phase-out included PZ Cussons Australia who announced a phase-out date for Radiant Power at the end of 2012.  This was followed by an announcement from Colgate-Palmolive who will reformulate their Cold Power and Dynamo powder detergents by the end of 2013 and their liquid detergents by the first half of 2014.













13 June 2011 - Long-running soapie ends
Sydney Morning Herald
Mr Dee, founder of Do Something, said: "This means that I now have ever detergent brand over the line for Do Something's national phosphate ban.

12 June 2011 - Australian laundry detergents to be phosphate-free by 2014
The Australian
Australian laundry detergents will be phosphate-free by 2014, after two final companies agreed to phase out the envrionmentlly damagaing element from their products.

12 June 2011 - Detergents to dump phosphates
The environmental campaigner Jon Dee has won his battle to rid laundry products of environmentally damaging phosphates, with the last manufacturers agreeing to phase them out.

6 May 2011 - Consumers go green for cleaning products
Herald Sun/AAP
Consumers are voting with their wallets and opting for eco-friendly laundry products, consumer research shows. The latest Canstar Blue independent consumer survey of 2500 Australian consumers, released today, revealed that Aldi, which recently committed to banning phosphate detergents, has the most satisfied laundry powder customers.

19 April 2011 -Phasing out phosphates
The TODAY Show
Jon Dee appears on TODAY to explain why we should be concerned, and what we're doing about it.

18 April 2011 - A phosphate-free future
G Magazine
Coles and Woolworths have announced that they will phase-out laundry phosphates, and Unilever has just released a phosphate-free OMO.

17 April 2011 - Phosphates are all washed up
The Sun-Herald and Sunday Age
In the latest round of supermarket "me-too-ism", Coles and Woolworths have backed a plan to rid shelves of environmentally damaging detergents.

17 April 2011 - Laundry powders to go phosphate-free
The Australian
Australia has moved closer to a national phase-out of phosphates in laundry detergents, with big brand laundry products moving to get rid of the chemical.

3 April 2011 - Scrub-up gives Aldi green tick
The Sun-Herald and Sunday Age
Budget supermarket chain Aldi is taking a green lead in phasing out phosphates from laundry detergents by 2013.

3 April 2011 - ALDI to ban phosphate laundry detergents
Nine News
Environmental group, Do Something, described the an as a challenge to other major supermarket chains.

3 April 2011 - ALDI gets eco-conscious
Herald Sun
ALDI supermarkets in Australia will soon ban the sales of laundry detergents containing phosphates.

3 February 2011 - Clean Detergents
G Magazine
Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the issue of blue-green algae in waterways was a hot environmental topic. Phosphate was identitifed as a contributor to the problem.

7 November 2010 - Call to clean up our detergents
The Sun-Herald and Sunday Age
Australian supermarkets are selling laundry detergents containing phosphates that are being phased out overseas because of their disastrous effects on waterways.


29th May 2015


Volunteer in your pyjamas!
How 'virtual volunteers' are changing the face of volunteering
Think of volunteering and you picture people delivering Meals on Wheels or helping out in a charity op shop. But in today's busy world, you'll also see volunteers in their pyjamas!
More and more people are starting to volunteer their time online or on the phone. It's called 'virtual volunteering' and you can participate any time, day or night. It's been popular for some time in other parts of the world, but is only now starting to take off in Australia.
With today's International Volunteer Day (Dec 5th), the charity DoSomething are calling on busy Australians to think about becoming a virtual volunteer. Their website is now listing virtual volunteering opportunties. View the media release to see what you can do or visit:

Leading charity op shops encourage Australians to 'Op Till You Drop!' for this year's National Op Shop Week


National Op Shop Week 2015 will take place from Sunday 23rd - 30th August 2015. Please put the date in your diaries!


Red Cross, Salvos Stores and Vinnies are just some of the leading charity op shops involved in this year's Op Shop Week. This is the fourth National Op Shop Week and the campaign slogan for 2015 is 'Op Till You Drop!'.


To find locations for charity op shops in your local area, please visit - over 2,000 charity op shops are listed on this site!



21st May 2015

Free book shows small to medium-sized businesses how to cut their energy bills by 10-60%.


Australians spend more on energy than many of us realise. In 2012 we spent $9 billion on air-conditioning-related energy bills and nearly $5 billion on refrigeration-related energy costs. We're also spending tens of billions of dollars 1 on fuel products

Read more about the recent project launch of here.




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