Sustainability of the chemical industry

What is sustainable chemistry?

Sustainable chemistry is an overall framework for the entire life cycle and cross cutting and sectoral treatment of chemical. It is based on sound management of chemicals and wastes, using the principles of green chemistry and prevention. Sustainable chemistry refers to the economic operation within the limits of ecological environment and seeks safe and harmless solutions. Sustainable chemistry is a revolutionary method to provide innovative solutions for resource efficiency, circular economy and carbon neutral.

Sustainable chemistry is a wide range of areas involving stakeholders in the scientific community, the economy, public authorities, the environment and consumer advocacy associations.

There are different ways to implement sustainable chemistry. At the sustainable chemistry seminar, held jointly with the organization for economic cooperation and development (OECD) in 2004, the German Federal Environment Agency (umweltbundesam) developed criteria for Sustainable Chemistry:

Quality development: use harmless substances, or, in the unlikely case, use substances with low risk to human beings and the environment, and manufacture long-life products in a resource-saving way;

Quantitative development: reduce the consumption of natural resources, which should be renewable as much as possible, avoiding or minimizing the discharge or introduction of chemicals or pollutants into the environment. These measures will help to save costs;

Life cycle comprehensive assessment: analyze the production, manufacture, processing, use and disposal of raw materials of chemicals and waste products to reduce the consumption of resources and energy and avoid the use of dangerous substances;

Action rather than response: avoid chemicals that harm the environment and human health and over utilize the environment as sources or sinks during the development phase and before sales; Reduce the cost of damage and the related economic risks and the cost of repair undertaken by the state;

Economic innovation: Sustainable chemicals, products and production methods give industry users, private consumers and public sector customers confidence and thus gain competitive advantage.

Avoid hazardous chemicals – develop safety chemicals

One step in the manufacture of safer chemicals is to have fewer hazard attributes that can be handled at lower risk. Once the principle of safe treatment is met, chemicals no longer constitute a hazard.

The use of very dangerous substances must be restricted or completely prohibited. These substances include substances that cause cancer, mutation or are harmful to reproduction (CMR substances), or substances (PBT substances) that are extremely critical to the environment due to their persistence and bioaccumulation.

Under environmental protection policies, the release of sustainable chemicals to the environment will not cause any short-term or long-term problems. Moreover, sustainable chemicals are not persistent, do not spread in large areas (short-range chemicals) and have no irreversible effects.

When no harmful properties are detected, chemicals are considered sustainable: they do not cause known damage or persist for a long time in the environment, which may have an unknown negative impact to date.

A sustainable chemical is not only characterized by the nature of its constituents. The conditions for their production, processing and application, including their specific needs for resources (energy, raw materials and additives), their production at production, emissions to air, water and soil, and the amount of wastewater and solid waste, must be evaluated throughout the life cycle of the substance.

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