There has been a lot of activity around green chemistry this year, and we’d like to take the time to highlight some of the biggest stories – the top fifteen of 2015 – to demonstrate the accomplishments of the field. These stories, in no particular order, come from research labs and Capitol Hill alike.
1. Nearly forty years after the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act was enacted there's been an update to national chemical regulation. The U.S. Senate passed the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. If you fancy some denser reading, here’s the Senate Congressional Record. The Environmental Defense Fund had glowing remarks about the passing vote.
2. In December, Colorado State University chemists announced the development of the first fully recyclable polymer. If innovation is looking where others aren’t, this Colorado State University research group hit the nail on the head.
3. This year, green chemistry was frequently mentioned as a part of efforts by large retailers as they take greater action to address potentially hazardous chemicals in their products. Target and Walmart, for example, made the news via their partnership with Forum for the Future. Although Target and Walmart got the most press because of their size they are far from the only retailers making a shift towards stricter supply chain regulations. Proctor and Gamble, Johnson and Johnson and Unilever are just a few other brands that are working together for safer consumer products.
4. An article in Nature introduced a sub-field of green chemistry, the concept of the Slow Chemistry Movement. Referred to in this article as lazy man’s chemistry, low energy-input solid-state methods hold potential as an area for discovery.
5. This year marked the 10th anniversary of the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable. Dr. Juan Colberg, Co-Chair of the Roundtable stated, “As we look ahead with our collaboration, the Roundtable will continue to sponsor exciting research and development in green alternatives. By working together, we can help develop processes that are more sustainable, environmentally sound and cost effective.” The Roundtable has developed a common solvent selection guide, process mass intensity calculator, a reagent guide, provided over $1.5 million in grants, and more. The roundtable also held three events, like this free research symposium, over the course of 2015.
6. The Green Chemistry Education Roadmap project was initiated to help focus and coordinate individual and regional efforts to move the field of green chemistry forward. In September, the ACS GCI hosted a visioning workshop and is currently organizing a larger roadmapping workshop to take place in 2016.
8. The Green Chemistry Innovation Portal was launched by ACS GCI and GC3. This website is a multi-faceted tool to connect and expand the green chemistry community.
9. This well-circulated report, released in May, provided a foundation for the business case for safer chemistry. Although it doesn’t provide definitive answers to all of our questions about the market for green chemistry, it does create a starting place for future studies and might catch the eye of potential investors. Based on this report, evidence that green chemistry products show higher sales growth was certainly a hot topic in the news.
10. Twenty years ago, the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards were established to “promote the environmental and economic benefits of developing and using novel green chemistry.” According to the U.S. EPA over 1,500 nominations have been made so far, and a new category for innovations that mitigate climate change was added this year. The PGCCA will be joining the ACS GCI in Portland next June for the 20th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference.
11. In June, the US Department of Agriculture’s BioPreferred® program published a report that demonstrates the positive correlation between U.S. job growth and biobased products. The report was accompanied by a handy infographic that helps show the viability of the U.S. bioeconomy.
12. Representatives from various sectors of the chemical industry were active at the Paris Climate Summit. In particular, Cefic, the European Chemical Industry Council, made forward-looking statements about the industry’s responsibility and role as the world moves forward to prevent further environmental harm. The group also put forth their plans to help meet each of the Sustainable Development Goals set forth by the United Nations Environment Programme.
13. Separation processes account for over a third of the energy used in chemical manufacturing. To address this, Alt Sep (Sustainable Separations Processes) Project was initiated by the ACS GCI Chemical Manufacturers Roundtable. Sponsored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the project is rooted in a collaborative partnership between the ACS GCI and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), this initiative aims to fundamentally change the way we apply separation technologies in chemical manufacturing. There are also opportunities for the community to get involved.
14. In April, Scientists with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California achieved a breakthrough for the environment. Through a combination of nanowires and bacteria to mimic photosynthesis, researchers found a solar energy-powered way to convert carbon dioxide into valuable chemical products. Conversion of carbon dioxide and other materials to chemicals through biosynthetic routes has been gaining traction all year. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Image credit: energy.gov
15. The Guardian hosted a “making green chemistry mainstream” event in New York City this September to address challenges and overwhelming opportunities in green chemistry. A series of articles covering the event provided unprecedented coverage of the field by a global publication.