Choose Sustainable Chemistry at your Workplace to reduce the negative impacts of chemicals on human health and the environment

January 7, 2022

Sustainable Chemistry for the workplace

Sustainable chemistry, also sometimes called green chemistry, focuses on an area of chemistry and chemical engineering that minimizes or eliminates the use and generation of hazardous substances. Green chemistry can be applied to the lifecycle of a chemical product including its design, manufacturing, use, and its disposal. If you purchase or use chemicals at your workplace you can implement green chemistry standards to work towards your sustainable business goals.

Green chemistry targets pollution prevention on multiple fronts  

Green chemistry reduces pollution at its source by decreasing the hazards associated with chemical feedstocks, reagents, solvents, and products. Traditional pollution prevention, also called remediation, involves treating waste streams or cleanup of hazardous materials spills or releases. Remediation technology can effectively enable green chemistry by reducing or eliminating the chemicals used to cleanup contaminants.

Chemicals that are less hazardous to human health are also less hazardous to the environment

Chemicals that are less hazardous to human health and the environment are: 

  • Less toxic to organisms 

  • Less damaging to ecosystems 

  • Not persistent or accumulative in organisms or the environment

  • Inherently safer to handle and use if they are not flammable or explosive 

Your SDS inventory at Chemscape is the key to understanding the health hazards of your worksite chemicals and finding less hazardous products. 

The 12 Principles of Green Chemistry:  

  1. Waste prevention: Design chemical manufacturing with no waste to treat or clean up.

  2. Maximize atom economy: Design chemical manufacturing so that the final product contains the maximum proportion of the starting materials.

  3. Design less hazardous chemical processes: Design processes to use and generate substances with little or no toxicity to either humans or the environment.

  4. Design safer chemicals and products: Design chemical products that are fully effective yet have little or no toxicity.

  5. Use safer solvents and reaction conditions: Avoid using solvents, separation agents, or other auxiliary chemicals.

  6. Increase energy efficiency: Run chemical reactions at room temperature and pressure whenever possible.

  7. Use renewable feedstocks: Use starting materials (feedstocks) that are renewable rather than depletable. The source of renewable feedstocks is often agricultural products or the waste of other processes; the source of depletable feedstocks is often fossil fuels (petroleum, natural gas, or coal) or mining operations. 

  8. Avoid chemical derivatives: Avoid using blocking or protecting groups or any temporary modifications if possible. Derivatives use additional reagents and generate waste. 

  9. Use catalysts, not stoichiometric reagents: Minimize waste by using catalytic reactions. Catalysts are effective in small amounts and can carry out a single reaction many times. They are preferable to stoichiometric reagents, which are used in excess and carry out a reaction only once. 

  10. Design chemicals and products to degrade after use: Design chemical products to break down to innocuous substances after use so that they do not accumulate in the environment. 

  11. Analyze in real time to prevent pollution: Include in-process, real-time monitoring, and control during syntheses to minimize or eliminate the formation of by-products.

  12. Minimize the potential for accidents: Design chemicals and their physical forms (solid, liquid, or gas) to minimize the potential for chemical accidents including explosions, fires, and releases to the environment. 

Sustainable chemistry aims to attain the highest level of the pollution-prevention hierarchy by reducing pollution at its source

The pollution prevention hierarchy looks as follows:  

1. Source Reduction and Prevention of Chemical Hazards

  • Designing chemical products to be less hazardous to human health and the environment

  • Making chemical products from feedstocks, reagents, and solvents that are less hazardous to human health and the environment

  • Designing processes with reduced or even no chemical waste

  • Designing processes that use less energy or less water 

  • Using feedstocks derived from annually renewable resources or from abundant waste 

  • Designing chemical products for reuse or recycling 

  • Reusing or recycling chemicals

2. Treating chemicals to render them less hazardous before disposal

3. Disposing of untreated chemicals safely and only if other options are not feasible 

If you are interested in Sustainable Chemistry and ways to identify less hazardous products for your operations, reach out to us.