Are green chemistry principles feasible? Can they be scaled to plants? Can the industries helps the environment and at the same time profit from it?
First, let’s look at the process parameters of an ideal process. An ideal process should be green, because it not only is safe to the environment but at the same time saves a lot of money. Idea processes do not exist because an ideal process is:
- At room temperature
- At atmospheric pressure
- Does not use a solvent
- Has no flammability
- It is not a viscous fluid (Why? Because if it is viscous we have to spend energy in agitating it or mixing it)
- Benign like water
Real processes look like this
- Machines are needed (Motion free process is not conceivable)
- Driven by electricity or some other form of energy
- Skilled or semi-skilled or unskilled workers (Automation may not be a complete solution)
- Ill-informed operators work on real processes because they are not allowed to know the intricacies of the process. For example, no worker in the Coca-Cola company knows the recipe of its cold-drink.
- Fierce competition for survival and growth exists
- “Risk is better than starvation” attitude
- NIMBY (Not-in-my-back-yard) attitude of manufacturers
- Hazard exists (Risk is part and parcel of all activities)
That leaves us with a lot of questions
- Can all chemicals be replaced by safer chemicals?
- Can we live without gases to avoid leaks which cannot be contained?
- Can we avoid volatile liquids altogether?
- Can we stop designing and operating plants irrespective of the inherent characteristic of the chemicals?
- Can you live like a caveman, a nice hut, a little vegetable garden, livestock in the backyard?
We should accept that real processes are not perfect and adapt to them. Adapt in a way that will keep this planet sustainable, for us and other species. Green chemistry can help us deal with the existing problems and create a sustainable environment, at the same time cleaning up the mess that our creations have caused. We don’t know if we are late but it is worth the try. Acting this way that will take care of the economy because if economies fail, the nation fails and it will lead to chaos, we don’t want that.