Celebrity chef Neil Perry has it in all his restaurants. The Melbourne Cricket Ground has it installed, and now the new Sydney Convention Centre has signed up.
The invention they are all using is a salt-based product that looks like water and does away with harsh environmentally toxic sanitisers and cleaners.
According to the health authorities the system is safe enough and effective enough to use in highly sensitive applications such as hospitals and nursing homes.
Among existing clients are about 30 hospitals including the Wolper in Sydney, Bendigo Hospital, Austin and the Royal Children’s hospitals in Victoria, and around 100 nursing homes.
But the only Australian company producing the product is Melbourne-based eWaterSystems, founded nine years ago by former Clemengers director Phil Gregory.
According to Dawn O’Neil, recently appointed to expand the business for the company in the newly created role of director planning and strategy, the product works by using electrolysis to split salt into two compounds.
One of the compounds is an alkaline solution, sodium hydroxide (NaOH), that can be used for cleaning and the other is a mildly acidic solution, sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl), that penetrates the cell membranes of bacteria and “explodes it so it can no longer function”.
“It kills E. coli and salmonella,” she says, “but is harmless to humans, food or the environment.”
“It’s very effective in infection control.”
O’Neil says hers is the only company in Australia selling this product.
“It’s a Japanese technology but Australia has been slow to adapt.”
The commercial office sector was slow to get on board but one Sydney law firm has recently become a client, O’Neil says.
She says it was “a bit frustrating to see so many conversations around sustainability but very little about the chemicals that are used in many buildings to clean and sanitise”.
The system come in two sizes – one similar to a Zip hot water unit that retails for $8100 and another like a “big hot water unit” with tanks either size. The cost of the larger unit varied depending on how many outlets are needed through the building, at anywhere from $80,000 to $120,000.
But the company is hopeful of expansion likening its sector to that of the wind and solar industry 20 years ago.
“Research emphatically proves electrolysed water solutions to be equal to or more effective than increasingly outdated alternatives that are carbon intensive, create unacceptable toxic waste and are distributed through high carbon footprint warehousing, distribution and procurement methods,” its website says.
“Until recently, the powerfully effective sustainable chemistry like electrolysis has been overlooked.”
O’Neil was previously chief executive of beyondblue and Lifeline.