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Chelating agents are useful and at times controversial chemicals that are used in large quantities. They can bind heavy metals in food, for example, or prevent lime to deposit from washing water. Chelating agents are used above all in detergents and cleaners to lower water hardness, but also for industrial applications, food processing and medicine. The market research institute Ceresana expects worldwide demand for chelating agents to rise to more than 4.34 million tonnes by 2022.

Main Application Washing Powder

The most important sales market for chelating agents are washing powders. They constituted about 60% of total demand in 2014. Chelating agents are not only used in household detergents and cleaners, but also in industrial applications. They are applied, among others, in the pulp and paper industry, textiles and leather, the food industry, medicine and cosmetics. The pulp industry was the largest consumer in 2014 with a volume of about 150.000 tonnes. In this sector, chelating agents are used for manufacturing bleached chemical pulp and for de-inking recycled waste paper.

Alternatives to Phosphates Wanted

While demand for chelating agents rises strongly in emerging countries, saturated markets in Western Europe and North America will only grow slightly over the next years. They are characterized by product substitution. Environmental concerns are having an impact on the use of the controversial sodium tripolyphosphate (STPP) in the European Union as well as in Canada and the USA. Many manufacturers are voluntarily refraining from applying STPP. Governmental prohibitions and limitations are becoming more and more effective as well. In Europe, demand for STPP in household washing powders has already fallen significantly. Over the next years, this trend is expected to lead to a clear volume decline of STPP for dishwashing detergents.

Growth Market for Environmentally Friendly Chelating Agents

There is an increasing desire for replacing conventional chelating agents such as STPP, phosphonates, EDTA, NTA or DTPA in an environmentally friendly way. Biodegradability is most important in order to prevent long-term consequences for humans and the environment. Citric acid, GLDA, MGDA, EDDS, IDS, gluconic acid, and glucoheptonates are to be more environmentally friendly. Ceresana expects its demand to rise by 2.4% p.a. worldwide.