In an article published on October 6, 2016 by The Guardian, journalist Bruce Watson reports on the achievements of 25 years of green chemistry. He asked pioneers in the field about the most important advancements in green chemistry on the occasion of the field’s 25th anniversary.

Martin Mulvihill, co-founder and former director of the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry and co-founder of venture capital fund Safer Made, highlights the move from petroleum-based to bio-based feedstocks for chemistry. “In the future, it’s entirely possible that the basic building blocks of our chemistry will come from biomass, including food and crop waste,” he asserts.

David Levine, co-founder and CEO of the American Sustainable Business Council, points out that “the public has become aware of the need for and value of green chemistry and companies have become aware of the economic opportunities that it offers.” He refers to a 2015 report demonstrating the business potential of safer chemicals (FPF reported). Levine names bisphenol A (BPA, CAS 80-05-7) as an example of a hazardous chemical that consumers have become aware about and many companies have consequently changed their production and now offer “BPA-free” products.

Libby Bernick, senior vice president of the North American branch of research firm Trucost, mentions “the growth in manufacturers that are starting to use pollution as a raw material for making their products.” Examples include U.S. companies Novomer and Newlight, using greenhouse gasses to make new products: Novomer is turning carbon dioxide into versatile polymers and Newlight is making plastics from methane (FPF reported).

Larry Weiss, chief medical officer at biotech company AOBiome and founder of cleaning company CleanWell, sees a shift in peoples’ relationship to chemicals: “Rather than figuring out which chemical to use, we’re figuring out how to use fewer chemicals – or none at all,” he observes. He exemplifies this with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) ban on triclosan (CAS 3380-34-5) in antibacterial soap. The antibacterial chemical was “marketed as a value-add,” but “actually had negative effects,” Weiss explains. “We’re slowly becoming aware that, rather than experiencing better living through chemistry, we might have better living with less chemistry,” he concludes.

On November 2, 2016 The Guardian is hosting The Guardian Green Chemistry Conference 2016 in New York City, U.S. The event will “bring together voices and ideas from science and industry to explore a toxin-free future.” A detailed program and registration are available online.

Read more

Bruce Watson (October 6, 2016). “Plastic substitutes and other breakthroughs from 25 years of green chemistry.The Guardian

The Guardian (July 27, 2016). “What’s next for green chemistry? Join The Guardian for this one-day event.

Stephen K. Ritter (July 4, 2016). “Green chemistry celebrates 25 years of progress.C&EN