Chemical process industry and pollution

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A flow chart below shows what a typical chemical process industry looks like, in a broad sense. As you can see, every stage or every plant in the industry emits waste (effluent – whatever that flows outward, other than the product) in any of the forms viz. gaseous, liquid and solid. Effluent handling is a vast topic. Due to stringent norms on effluents emissions, a huge amount of study has been dedicated to waste treatment.

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How does one manage effluents?

  • Make appropriate changes, innovations in the process. This is one of the 12 principles of Green Chemistry, to create such a process so that no waste is produced. Zero waste.
  • So much for Zero waste, it is not always possible. So what can one do? End of pipeline i.e. when changes and innovations are not possible in a process, treat the effluents.  Separation and purification is one of most economically costing processes in the industry.
  • 3R: Reduce, recycle and recover. (Recover: “Liability at one end becomes asset at the other.”, Wealth from waste)

It figures, not all are concern driven. Some can envision the long term (or short term, or local) effects of pollution, while others simply care about money, or both? Money is the incentive and is not about proving that chemistry and physics are working together. Innovation is making money. Money is the incentive, so we find ways to earn money while we try to protect the environment, such as carbon emission trading. Another example is how India gained most from destroying HFC-23.

How do green technologies help us?

  • green technology operates in harmoney harmony with nature, but may not always makes business sense,
  • helps keep a limit on the pollutants produced,
  • most importantly is site specific because what is green at one place won’t necessarily be green at another.

Food for thought – What could Ranbir Kapoor be possibly trying to say in the song ‘Sada Haq’ of the movie ‘Rockstar’ when he says these words: “O Eco friendly, Nature ke rakshak, Main bhi hoon nature”

Further Reading:

Last Edited: January 9 2018

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