The Principles of ‘Green Chemistry’

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Green or Sustainable Chemistry refers to the creation of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use and production of harmful substances- that do not have negative consequences for the environment. Dr Suman Majumder takes us through the principles of Green Chemistry, the impact of personal care formulations on environment, innovations and the future of Green chemistry in a series of incisive articles.

Synthetically made chemicals are not environmentally benign. There are substances that are known to be more toxic and more harmful to humans & ecosystem than others. By using the substantial data available on human health effects and ecological impacts for a wide variety of individual chemicals and chemical classes, chemists and environmentalists can make informed choices as to which chemicals would be more conducive to use in a particular synthesis or process.

Green Chemistry is the use of chemistry techniques and methodologies that reduce or eliminate the use of generation of feedstocks, products, by-products, solvents, reagents, etc., that are hazardous to human health or the environment”

There is no doubt that over the past many decades, the chemistry community, and in particular, the chemical industry, has put extensive efforts to reduce the risk associated with the manufacture and use of various chemicals. Innovative chemistries were developed to treat chemical wastes and remediate hazardous waste sites. New monitoring and analytical tools and indices have been developed for detecting chemical contamination in air, water, and soils. New procedures of handling and logistics and containment technologies have been developed to minimize exposure. While these areas are commendable efforts in the reduction of risk, they are not pollution prevention or Green Chemistry, but rather are approaches to pollutant control. Engineering solutions, inventory control and “housekeeping” changes are also many ways to accomplish pollution prevention. Approaches such as these are necessary and have been successful in preventing pollution, but they also are not Green Chemistry. There emerged a need of a more holistic look at addressing the threatening situation of Global Warming and Natural Calamities emanating out of pollution and destabilization of the chemical balance through exhaustive use of fossil fuels, converting them into non-biodegradable products, which after their brief consumer lifecycle becomes environment threatening pollutant.

Green chemistry is an approach that advocates doing chemistry in an environmentally responsible manner. These principles focus on all aspects of synthesis and processing, such as solvents, separations, energy, and minimization of waste. The concept and practice of green chemistry form the core of developing a strategy for a sustainable chemical industry and, indeed, a sustainable world. The holistic approach to address all the issues related to pollution and associated global warming and other related health and hygiene problems of the community and eco-system is thus combined in a set of twelve principles collectively termed as “Green Chemistry”.

The Twelve Principles of Green Chemistry

The Twelve Principles of Green Chemistry, as articulated by Anastas and Warner (1,2), serve as a guide for developing more environmentally benign products and processes, are as follows:

Principle 1: “It is better to prevent waste than to treat or clean up waste after it has been created.”

Principle 2: “Synthetic methods should be designed to maximize the incorporation of all materials used in the process into the final product.”

Principle 3: “Wherever practicable, synthetic methods should be designed to use and generate substances that possess little or no toxicity to human health and the environment.”

Principle 4: “Chemical products should be designed to affect their desired function while minimizing their toxicity.”

Principle 5: “The use of auxiliary substances (e.g., solvents, separation agents, etc.) should be made unnecessary wherever possible and innocuous when used.”

Principle 6: “Energy requirements of chemical processes should be recognized for their environmental and economic impacts and should be minimized. If possible, synthetic methods should be conducted at ambient temperature and pressure.”

Principle 7: “A raw material or feedstock should be renewable rather than depleting whenever technically and economically practicable.”

Principle 8: “Unnecessary derivatization (use of blocking groups, protection/deprotection, temporary modification of physical/chemical processes) should be minimized or avoided if possible because such steps require additional reagents and can generate waste.”

Principle 9: “Catalytic reagents (as selective as possible) are superior to stoichiometric reagents.”

Principle 10: “Chemical products should be designed so that at the end of their function they break down into innocuous degradation products and do not persist in the environment.”

Principle 11: “Analytical methodologies need to be further developed to allow for real-time, in-process monitoring and control prior to the formation of hazardous substances.”

Principle 12: “Substances and the form of a substance used in chemical processes should be chosen to minimize the potential for chemical accidents, including releases, explosions, and fires”

All these principles are being applied in groups either to the synthesis of raw materials or finished goods, to reduce the carbon footprint or to improve the process efficiency in any industrial eco-system and so is equally applicable in the cosmetics or personal care industry.

Author : Suman Majumder

suman.majumder1970@gmail .com

Suman Majumder, PhD., FRSC  is a senior research and management professional with 20 years of postdoctoral experience in Organic Synthesis and Product Development for various industry sectors including Pharmaceutical, FMCG (Food, Personal Care, Laundry, Hygiene), Packaging and Agro-chemical. He was associated with Industrial R&D with companies like TCG Lifesciences, Dow Chemicals, Sigma-Aldrich, Unilever, Loreal, Avery Dennison and is presently the Head- R&D at Bajaj Consumer Care.

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