12 reasons that make green chemistry important to you!

31 March 2022 | Alessia Belgi, ARC Training Centre for Green Chemistry in Manufacturing

How does Green Chemistry affect you?

Making the production of our everyday life goods more sustainable is one of the main goals of the modern world. It is of immense importance in the fight against climate change. To reach this goal, the production processes have to be constantly adapted and optimized. In particular, the chemists involved, have to be extremely flexible in finding new synthetic pathways with novel reagents or by repurposing old ones for these processes.

Now, what does that mean and how does it influence you? Well first of all, hopefully, you should still be able to use the same products, or similar ones with the same functionality, as before. At the same time, you can enjoy living in a much healthier environment because less hazardous substances are released into the air, soil or waterways. By removing toxic chemicals that could enter the food chain, every living being, from plants to animals to humans, would live safer. This is what chemists around the world are trying to achieve with the implementation and adoption of Green Chemistry approaches.

Below, you will find the 12 principles standing behind and making up the foundation of Green Chemistry and how green chemical approaches are utilized to convert rice straw into products of high value.

The 12 principles of Green Chemistry:


The term “Green Chemistry” was defined by Paul Anastas and John Warner as “the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use and/or the generation of hazardous substances1

The authors also articulated what are now the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry.
Nowadays Green chemical approaches and processes aim at applying one or more of the 12 principles of green chemistry.

The Twelve Principles of Green Chemistry are:


1. Waste Prevention

Prevention of waste is better than having to treat or clean up waste after it has been generated.

2. Atom economy

Synthetic methods should be designed in a way that most of the atoms that form the reagents are incorporated into the final product/s. You can compare this to wood boards you want to use for building a house. You might need to cut them to the right size but in the end all the wood should be incorporated with no left overs.

3. Reduced Toxicity

Wherever possible and practicable, synthetic methods should be designed to use and generate substances that have little or no toxicity to human health and the environment.

4. Benign by design

Chemical products should be designed to reduce toxicity while maintaining their function and efficacy.

5. Safer solvents and auxiliaries

The use of auxiliary substances (solvents, separation agents, etc) should be avoided wherever possible and when they must be used they should be as non-hazardous as possible.

The application of this principle promotes the choice of solvents that are chemically sound for the reaction but at the same time that reduce the energy requirements, are the least toxic, and don’t have major safety impacts to human health and the environment.

6. Design for energy efficiency

Energy requirements should be recognized for their economic and environmental impacts and should be minimized. Chemical syntheses should be conducted at ambient temperature and pressure whenever possible.

7. Use of renewable feedstocks

Whenever technically and economically practicable, renewable feedstocks or raw materials should be used over non-renewable, exhausting materials.

8. Reduce derivatives

Unnecessary generation of derivatives (use of protecting groups, protection/deprotection, temporary modification of physical/chemical processes) should be minimized or avoided if possible; such steps require additional reagents and can generate additional waste. 

The use of enzymes is one of the best ways to comply with this principle. Enzymes are so specific and selective that often protecting groups are not required.

9. Catalysis

Catalytic reagents that are selective and used in small quantities are superior to stoichiometric reagents.

10. Design for degradation

Chemical products should be designed in a way that at the end of their function they break down into non-hazardous degradation products and are not long-lasting in the environment.

11. Real-time analysis for pollution prevention (In-process monitoring)

Analytical methodologies need to be further developed to allow real-time, in-process monitoring and control before hazardous substances form.

12. Inherently safer chemistry for accident prevention

Substances and the form of a substance used in a chemical process should be chosen to minimize the potential for chemical accidents, including accidental releases, explosions and fires.

Green Chemistry

Green Chemistry in rice straw management

In short, Green Chemistry scientists are trying to prevent the creation of toxic waste, side or degradation products at their source. This has a positive impact on the environment and ultimately human health. But where is the connection to rice straw management and biochemical approaches? Some people would consider rice straw as waste products of rice production. But the components of the rice straw biomass are of high value if treated in the right way. Microorganisms such as yeast or bacteria and small molecular machines, also called enzymes, can be used for this purpose. Utilizing those, the rice straw components can be separated and converted into biofuels or industrially valuable food or pharmaceutical products. These methods are using lower amounts of energy and are less dangerous as they do not require the use of hazardous acids or bases during the processing of the rice straw.

Don’t wait! Read up!

Hopefully this gave you an insight into the world of Green Chemistry. Have a look at our other articles to find out more about how rice straw are processed and converted into high value products:

References:

12 Principles of Green Chemistry - American Chemical Society (acs.org) 

https://www.epa.gov/greenchemistry/benefits-green-chemistry