The future of the world is dependent on ‘going green’, we cannot agree any less. The need of the hour is environmental consciousness.
The revolution has begun at a consumer level, and as manufacturers we need to be aware as well. How often have we asked our ‘sellers’ while buying our soaps and shampoos or while shopping heavily dyed apparels or ever intervened our doctors who prescribe us medicines- “what is the ecological footprint of my choice”, or to simply put what is the e-factor of the product in my shopping cart. E-factor is one of the most obvious matrices, which helps calculate the Kgs of waste that got generated while manufacturing one Kg of the finished product. How often to we want to know about the toxicology of the chemicals that have gone into the making of our detergents, plastics, foam?
This awareness will bring us closer to the world of Green chemistry. It may sound dichotomous at first but it is possible. Green Chemistry ensures that our manufacturing process uses environmentally friendly, sustainable chemicals and processes. The aim is reduced waste, non toxic outputs, and zero or at least highly reduced pollution and of course, hopefully, zero environmental damage. Green chemical processes is the now and the future. It innovates and encourages products and processes that can sustain the environment while enabling us to make inherently safe choices.
Yes, as a buyer, we can drive what is being sold to us and thus demand our priorities, which must include environmental safety and ecological inclusiveness. The processes that are used for the manufacture of generic APIs or Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients and its intermediates already generate substantial pollution. This pollution is what leads to an unhealthy environment and therefore unhealthy human beings. This leads to the need for newer types and quantities of APIs that consequently result in more pollution! The cycle needs to be stopped and even reversed! More and more companies are now legally and morally obliged to uphold the principles of green chemistry, but there is rarely a formal policy. So are we truly on a path to achieve sustainable green chemistry practices?
The way forward to encourage implementation of green chemistry in real world conditions requires it to work closer with real world engineering.
Safer practices and products will give manufacturingan edge when it comes to
- Reducing the cost of waste management
- Simplifying compliance with environmental law
- Creating safer workplaces, and
- Curbing pollution.
Imagine the energy that can be saved, the water that will not get wasted, the tonnes of waste that will not be created. To cause this, we simply have to ask and voice our choices.
On an average day, we come in contact with many chemicals. It may seem like a strange fact to a common man, but most of the things around us and the products that we use are made up of chemicals. As an average person, we don’t really think about what we’re using, much less about what it is composed of and how it is manufactured. It’s best articulated by Annie Leonard through her Story of Stuff Project shares what she’d learned about the way we make, use and throw away Stuff. It is a must watch ‘20-minute cartoon about trash.
There are many chemical processes used in the manufacturing of products, that can cause short term and long term harm to us and our environment. Many industries use chemical processes, but that’s not the issue in contention here. The fact is that chemicals can’t be avoided but its manufacturing can be made safe for all concerned and that’s where intervention of green chemistry and engineering practices is called for.
Green chemistry is defined as the invention, design and application of chemical products and processes to reduce or to eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances. It is evident from the definition that the science is not merely a preventive one, but actively seeks to stop or at least minimize any chemical pollution. There are a set of rules that define the science and make it a holistic science that can be applied to all levels of production to achieve the final goal of controlling toxicity in the environment. A common (mis)conception is that green chemistry technologies will dramatically alter the process and product manufacturing, affect the profit margins and cause additional expenses. But the truth is that we often fail to see that what goes out as waste in form of hazardous effluents is nothing but an amalgamation of our starting raw material.
Green Chemistry and engineering practices assures us of efficient application of our raw material, identify environmentally benign feedstock, Recyle@Source TM Technologies and integration of such next-generation technologies.
Over a decade ago, Prof. Paul Anastas & Dr. John Warner introduced the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry and Engineering which have become the guide-map for making the chemical industry greener and sustainable. The principles overall promote that any physical, toxicological, or global hazard can be prevented in the processes and can thus minimize hazard across all stages of a chemical life-cycle from raw materials to manufacturing and end-of-life.
If we as a consumer become more aware of the products we use, and what impact it has on our mother Earth, we can demand environmentally benign means of manufacturing of the products that we use.