You may have heard of the phrase “green chemistry” and managed to hazard a guess to its general meaning by linking it to some other phrases in its lexical field; green living, green tourism, green planet… Your guess will have probably pointed you in the direction of something that is environmentally friendly.
This post talks you through the technical side of green chemistry, and the waste processes adopted by ReAgent in the name of green chemistry.
What is Green Chemistry?
“Green chemistry” is a term coined by Paul Anastas – a scientist at Yale University who came to be known as the “Father of Green Chemistry”. In broad terms, it’s a more modern and environment-focused term for “sustainable chemistry”.
Green chemistry describes the efforts of the chemical industry to reduce the negative impact that chemical and pharmaceutical processes have on the environment – through pollution, waste and chemical hazards.
The phrase focuses on industrial applications and it falls down to the engineering and manufacturing companies to ensure they are practising green chemistry to the full extent that they’re able to.
We can work towards green chemistry through the use of alternative manufacturing options and by considering ways to reduce the hazardous materials used in chemical applications, as well as those produced due to chemical reactions.
As a chemicals company, ReAgent has to be cautious about waste. Chemical waste can have a lasting and damaging effect on the environment.
We hold the ISO 14001 Environmental Standard. The environmental policy we have in place states that we promise to meet environmental legislations, as well as carry out our own voluntary commitments to cutting down our negative influence on the environment. Additionally, we will continue to define actions and monitor performance to ensure we meet our environmental commitments.
Our recycle rate currently stands at 98%. There’s still room for improvement, but this is a figure we’re proud of and we’re happy to play our part in minimising chemical waste.
Non-chemical waste we currently recycle includes:
- Glass bottles, which are recycled internally
- Cardboard and paper, which are collected
- Old plastic containers and electricals
Recycling in the chemical industry offers extensive benefits. It obviously reduces the net consumption of chemicals and minimises waste. During the recycling process of certain materials, other chemicals may be required. This opens up new markets as there is a higher requirements for the materials needed for recycling, and new chemicals may be created in the process.
Recycling rates are expected to rise as time goes on and raw materials become less available and more expensive.
Toxic Waste in the Chemical Industry
The chemical and pharmaceutical industries inevitably produce waste, but there are signs that the industries are cleaning up and going green. Disposing of hazardous waste safely and properly is vital to uphold health and safety standards, whilst also protecting the environment.
To honour our ongoing commitment to green chemistry, we follow a discharge consent. This is an agreement with our water treatment company, which gives us the following guidelines:
- Information about what can and cannot go down the drain. In short, the only things that can go down a drain are non-hazardous materials, liquids (but no sludge or viscous material) and materials that will not interfere with sewage treatment options. This guideline goes into a lot more detail, which our Health and Safety advisors are fully trained in.
- Don’t throw anything toxic or otherwise harmful down the drain. Some materials can cause pollution or directly affect people working around the drain – hazardous materials can cause burns and irritation to the skin. They can even be flammable or contain carcinogens. Anyone working with chemicals is urged to practise extreme caution and educate themselves on disposing of toxic waste.
- Don’t throw away anything containing a hazardous symbol on the label. This is pretty simple advice and all our labels are marked correctly, so we know we’re being responsible with our waste.
We fill in waste-transfer notes so everything is recorded and traceable. For items that can’t be disposed down the drain, we arrange for a hazardous waste treatment company to collect and dispose of hazardous waste on our behalf.
Major Brands do Green Chemistry
At ReAgent, we take our responsibility to practise green chemistry very seriously. We set environmental objectives every year so we can improve our recycle and waste processes, and try to come up with more ways to reduce pollution.
The phrase “green chemistry” isn’t necessarily something that anyone can easily recognise or define. It is yet to become mainstream, and in an effort to promote green chemistry, 10 businesses and organisations from the Green Chemistry and Commerce Council (CG3) have joined together.
One of the bigger names involved is Timberland. It’s hoped that by “bringing green chemistry into the mainstream [will mean] making it standard practice throughout the economy so that all chemistry is, by default, green chemistry.” (Article on greenbiz.com)
In a responsible manner, Timberland have created a measuring system they call “Green Index”. This is a way of monitoring the environmental impact created by their processes and materials. (In the 2009 report), Timberland admitted that they had only applied the Green Index rating system to 5% of their footwear so far, but expressed the aim of applying it across all footwear by 2011.
A more recent report states that Timberland was only able to apply the Green Index environmental rating to 73.4% of their footwear range. However, the continuous effort towards greener manufacturing sets a good example to other major brands.