Some fast facts about America's waste stream -- and craving for disposable cleaning products:
The U.S. produced 236.2 million tons of solid waste in 2003 (not including hazardous waste). That's up from 229 million tons in 2001.
Per capita, that translates into 4.5 pounds of garbage per person per day.
In the European Union, per-capita waste is nearly 30 percent less at 3.2 pounds of waste per person per day.
The $2.1 billion market for disposable consumer wipes in the United States is expected to grow to $3.1 billion by 2008.
As for those toilet brushes and their disposable heads, some $68 million worth of them were purchased last year in U.S. food, drug and mass-merchant stores (not including Wal-Mart).
SOME ALTERNATIVES TO USING-AND-TOSSING
Industry insiders went "shopping" down the cleaning aisles at the International Home & amp; Housewares Show, the annual trade show held in March in Chicago, to find durable options to disposable cleaning products. They looked for products that keep fast cleaning a priority. Most everything they found is available in grocery, home-center and mass-merchant stores -- or will be in the coming months. Have a look:
Microfiber dusters/cleaning cloths: A number of companies (including 3M and Casabella) make microfiber cleaning cloths and/or mitts. Microfiber is a synthetic material composed of many tiny fibers that naturally attract dust and dirt. Cloths and mitts can be used dry or spritzed with water for even better pickup and then machine-washed and reused. We liked the Casabella microfiber cloth designed especially for cleaning stainless steel (about $4.99 each; mitts are $5.99 each) and a handled mini-duster that works nicely on blinds (about $7.99). For stores, visit www.casabella.com or call 800-841-4140.
Microfiber dry mops: Designed to be more durable versions of the Swiffer or Grab-it, the dry mops feature high-performance microfiber cloth/mitt heads that can be removed and machine-washed. A number of companies make them. We like one from Quickie Manufacturing. The edges of the 14-inch-long mop head flex for easy cleaning around baseboards and furniture. The handle extends to 60 inches and that -- combined with a swivel, flip head -- means you easily can dust the top of high furniture or even the blades of a ceiling fan. About $15; in stores in July. For locations, call 800-257-5751 or visit www.quickie.com.
Mr. Mister: Although it can be used with a disposable cloth, the Mr. Mister from the German company Leifheit can be outfitted with a microfiber cloth that can be machine-washed and reused. Like the Swiffer WetJet, this snappy little mop carries its cleaning solution on board; no bucket of water is necessary. By pushing the handle's trigger, you get a powerful spray of fine mist on your floor. (No batteries required.) The removable tank holds up to 27 fluid ounces of your-choice solution for approximately 400 sprays. Cost: $28.99 at www.brylanekitchen.com (search for Spray-N-Wipe Mop); the durable micro-tech cloths are extra at $3.95 apiece; or $39.95, including one microfiber cloth, at www.brookstone.com (Item No. 494161). Extra cloths are $4.95.
Microfiber wet mops: Made to see the inside of a bucket of water, the wet mops feature the high-performance pickup of a microfiber head, which can be removed and machine-washed. We liked the Magnet Mop from Casabella. About $29.99. For stores, visit www.casabella.com or call 800-841-4140.
Better sponge mops: Sponge technology has improved vastly over the years, making the once crusty thing much easier to use and reuse. Again, there are many good ones on the market and they're all inherently durable; sponges last for months. We like the Scrub-A-Mop from Quickie Manufacturing with a built-in brush for removing scuff marks or cleaning grout. About $15; widely available.
Tub and Tile Wizard: Brand new from Quickie Manufacturing is this multipurpose bathroom cleaning tool with a handle that extends from 24 to 52 inches. The scrubbing pad head (which can be removed and rinsed) is made for cleaning the tub. A durable microfiber cloth can be wrapped around the pad (and tucked into grippers in the back). Extend the handle and the wizard turns into a tile and floor cleaner. About $16 for the wizard; about $2 for a microfiber cloth; in stores in June. For locations, call 800-257-5751 or visit www.quickie.com.
Sources: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Eurostat, Packaged Facts and ACNielsen.