The two main areas of action that have taken place, particularly in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s are:
- A reduction in the amount of sodium tripolyphosphate (STPP) used in detergent builders and switch to ‘alternative’ non-phosphate based builders, such as Zeolite A; and,
- Improving wastewater treatment through implementation of the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive (UWWTD).
Where STPP is used as builder in household detergents it contributes to up to 50% of soluble (bioavailable) phosphorus in municipal wastewater, therefore a reduction in the use of phosphate based detergents should have a positive impact on the eutrophication of surface water bodies. Measures to reduce the use of STPP based detergents in the EU included the introduction of laws or voluntary agreements to change to Zeolite A as the builder for household laundry detergents. As a result STPP consumption has decreased substantially since the early 1980’s, with dramatic decreases observed in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland. The widespread introduction of zeolite based detergents, even in countries where no formal action was taken, implies widespread acceptance of zeolite based detergents throughout Member States.