the dump

Creating valuable chemicals from waste

Redefining alchemy for the 21st century

Using greenhouse gases and other waste streams to create valuable chemicals can restore the environment.

The Green Chemistry and Commerce Council (GC3) is a business-to-business forum that advances the application of green chemistry across supply chains. This year they hosted the tenth Innovators Roundtable. I was particularly impressed with some entrepreneurs who are taking inherently bad chemicals (e.g. greenhouse gases), or products with no value such as food waste, and turning them into something incredibly useful. For example:

Bio plastics from greenhouse gases

Mango Materials makes affordable, eco-friendly plastics from waste. Instead of petrochemicals, they use methane gas, formed at wastewater treatment facilities and landfills. A special bacterium turns the methane into a biopolymer which is converted into biodegradable plastic.  When returned to the landfill, the process starts all over again. Imagine a life with safe plastics that do no harm, biodegrade completely, and do not turn into polluting islands of debris in our oceans.

Valuable polymers from pollutants

Novomer has a couple of interesting technologies. One uses carbon dioxide, another greenhouse gas, to make low-cost sustainable polymers that can be used for a variety of applications, such as coatings, adhesives, sealants and elastomers. In some cases, these materials actually have better performance than their conventional counterparts. Benefits of their technology include:

  • The ability to use, and thus reduce, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
  • Reduction of fossil fuel consumption. Oil will run out at some point!
  • Cost competitive technology

Renewable feedstocks from food waste

Research in food waste is occurring at the University Massachusetts Lowell and York University Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence. There is a lot of waste formed when growing food crops. Shells from nuts, peel from citrus fruits and old cooking oil are considered waste and either composted or thrown into landfills. However, this waste material can be converted into renewable feedstocks for the chemical industry. There are numerous uses including:

  • Specialty applications such as adhesives and pharmaceuticals.
  • Consumer chemicals such personal care items.
  • Commodity chemicals such as synthetic fibers, plastics and chemical building blocks.

Green chemistry innovation is here to stay and I am enthusiastic and optimistic about the future.

Impact to your business

Questions to Consider:

  • Do you have a department or person that spots new innovations?
  • Is your company preparing products using renewable resources?

For help with any issue associated with chemicals, contact Amanda Cattermole at (415) 412 8406 or We can help you develop powerful solutions to protect your company and brand reputation that result in safer products manufactured in cleaner supply chains.

Tips and Insights contains information to help you make informed chemicals management decisions. Each post highlights a particular topic and includes questions for you to consider.

Posted on: May 11, 2015 in Innovation

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