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New Category on Circularity for the 2024 Green Chemistry Challenge Awards

ACSGCI
Valued Contributor III
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By Jennie R. Romer, Esq., EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Deputy Assistant Administrator for Pollution Prevention

For 27 years, the Green Chemistry Challenge Awards have shined a spotlight on innovations that use green chemistry to avoid the creation of toxics and waste.

Contributed by Jennie R. Romer, Esq., EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Deputy Assistant Administrator for Pollution Prevention

For 27 years, the Green Chemistry Challenge Awards have shined a spotlight on innovations that use green chemistry to avoid the creation of toxics and waste. To recognize the growing ways this technology can be used to address pressing environmental and human health issues, the 2024 Green Chemistry Challenge Awards include a category focused on circularity – design of greener chemicals and materials that can be readily recycled or reused.

The new category will recognize the design of greener chemicals and materials that can be more easily recycled – or even continuously reused or remanufactured - thereby reducing waste from the onset. Efforts to reduce the consumption of plastic overall is a key part of source reduction, but greener chemicals play a big role since some materials, including many plastics, are now nearly impossible or costly to reuse or recycle and, therefore a large percentage are landfilled after just one use.

The circularity award category follows the addition two years ago of an award category that recognizes technology that reduces or eliminates greenhouse gas emissions. The first winner in this category was for a novel technology for the production of chemicals from biomass that can replace products commonly made from petroleum. The technology also has a link to circularity because the chemicals produced can be used to make materials, including plastics, which are both net zero-carbon and recyclable.

Other examples from the 2022 winners show the power and relevancy of green chemistry. For example, the biopharmaceutical company Amgen was recognized for improving the manufacturing process for a lung cancer drug, including the elimination of a step that generated large quantities of solvent waste. This one advancement alone will cut waste by around 31 million pounds. 

Another 2022 winner, a small business called Provivi, used green chemistry to create a pheromone product that reduces the ability of the fall armyworm moth, a pest for corn and other important crops, to mate. The product reduces the need for traditional pesticides, which can help protect human health and improve populations of beneficial insects, including pollinators.

These and other winners demonstrate how game-changing green chemistry can be. Over the past 28 years, the technologies recognized by the Green Chemistry Challenge Awards alone have eliminated the use of nearly one billion pounds of hazardous chemicals such as solvents, saved over 20 billion gallons of water, and eliminated emissions equivalent to nearly eight billion pounds of carbon dioxide annually.

All of us benefit from this reduction in pollution and greenhouse gases, however, the biggest impact may be in communities whose residents continue to suffer from disproportionately high pollution levels and the resulting adverse health and environmental impacts. By preventing waste, reducing energy use, and avoiding hazardous chemicals, innovative technologies such as the winners of the Green Chemistry Challenge Award, can bring tangible benefits to communities across the country. 

EPA will announce the 2023 Green Chemistry Challenge Awards on October 23 to showcase a new set of winners who are making a positive impact on human health and the environment by cutting pollution at its source. EPA and the American Chemical Society’s Green Chemistry Institute will host an award ceremony for the 2023 awards in Washington, D.C. There is no charge to attend, and I hope that many ACS members and friends will join us. Register to attend through this link.

If you want recognition for your green chemistry innovation, I hope you will apply for a Green Chemistry Challenge Award. The nomination period for the 2024 awards is open now until December 8. You can find more about the 2024 awards here, including how to enter and how to join a webinar on the nomination process.