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Opportunities and Advantages in Green

By: Sara Mason
Posted: January 19, 2011, from the January 2011 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Green chemistry concepts offer an exciting and beneficial new way of designing products. It allows the reduction of products’ impact, without necessarily changing the products themselves. Brand owners are taking note, changing their requirements to reflect trends in thought, and raw material suppliers are making the effort to promote green chemistry technologies in the creation and production of new innovations.

Biocatalytic Process

Eastman is taking steps to further reduce the environmental footprint of its chemical manufacturing, particularly for commonly used emollient esters. “We are taking a traditional process and implementing a greener methodology to reduce energy, waste and water consumption,” explains Natale. The customized approach utilizes a biocatalytic process that redefines efficiency and environmental responsibility.

The Eastman biocatalytic green process uses enzymes and closely controlled conditions to make the esters, eliminating the high temperature and strong acids traditionally required in their manufacture.

The company won the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) green chemistry award in 2009 for its biocatalytic process, which the company says can save 75% of the energy used and greenhouse gases emitted compared to a more traditional production method. “It is exciting to be manufacturing products that already exist, but [are] produced by a greener manufacturing process,” continues Natale. Eastman claims the process reduces energy inputs in excess of 50%, reduces waste by 90% and eliminates water consumption almost entirely. [Additional information about the process is available in the October 2008 GCI magazine feature The Value of Green Processing, as well as coverage of Eastman’s EPA award.]

Typically used in the pharma industry, which can afford a more expensive process, the biocatalytic method allows the manufacture of novel ingredients, and Eastman had been using it to manufacture anti-aging ingredients. The company then applied the 12 principals of green chemistry from the EPA to refine its operation (See EPA’s 12 Principles of Green Chemistry). Now, Eastman expects to be commercializing products from that process in the first quarter of 2011. “We spent the past year and a half refining the process so that we could produce affordable green chemicals,” says Natale. “Green chemicals are in demand, but they come with a cost, a premium. The right thing to do is to be able to provide the most green materials that consumers can afford.”