New technologies are being employed to curb the use of toxic materials in productive processes and prevent tragic accidents that can potentially claim the lives of thousands of people.
By Stephen Leahy
TORONTO, Sep 25/06 (IPS/IFEJ) – A green chemical revolution is underway that promises to be environmentally sustainable and profitable while reducing the risks of industrial disasters like the Bhopal, India gas leak in 1984.
“Green chemistry” has already turned maize into biodegradable plastics, developed non-toxic solvents and dramatically reduced the toxic byproducts from the manufacture of popular pharmaceuticals like ibuprofen. It is vital to the production of Toyota’s new electric cars, made in part from kenaf, an annual grass plant.
“Green chemistry is about developing new products and processes which actually fit the ‘triple’ bottom line of environmental, economic and social sustainability,” said Robin Rogers, a researcher and director of the University of Alabama’s Center for Green Manufacturing.
Chemical processes are involved in nearly all manufactured products. Over the past decade, some chemists have been rethinking how to make these products without using toxic materials or producing toxic wastes.
Green chemistry is not “green-washing” of old technologies, it is a fundamental part of new technologies that work better, cost less, use less energy, and will be less polluting throughout the lifecycle from raw material to ultimate disposition, Rogers told IPS.
“I consider this a ‘Green Technology Revolution’ to equate the imagery of the Industrial Revolution,” he said.
Rogers and colleagues recently developed a new way to dissolve and use cellulose — found in the cell walls of plants — that will help drive the replacement of expensive and toxic petroleum-based plastics with plant materials.
Those countries, including developing countries, that implement green chemistry will be globally competitive and increase their market share because the technology is cheaper and better, he says.
“The Chinese National Natural Science Foundation is funding over 100 green chemistry projects,” Rogers noted.
Green chemistry is an international issue because pollution and toxic releases can have an impact globally, says Kenneth Seddon, a professor of chemistry at Queens University in Belfast, Ireland.
For full story click Scientists Set Sights on ‘Green’ Chemistry
See also Green Chemistry and the Environment