Thursday, September 18, 2014

Pollution Prevention Week: Green Chemistry

By Andrew Wineke, communications, Hazardous Waste & Toxics Reduction

Sept. 15-21 is Pollution Prevention Week, and we’re taking the week to explore some of the ways Ecology is working to keep our air clean, our waters pure, and our communities safe from toxic chemicals.

Liberty Bottleworks CEO Tim Andis
inside the Union Gap factory.
The plant creates zero waste,
and their aluminum sports bottles
use a non-toxic coating instead of BPA.
Today, we’re looking at Green Chemistry.

If you’re not a chemist or a student facing a midterm, you probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about chemistry. But chemistry isn’t just something that happens in a lab filled with Bunsen burners and beakers. Almost everything in the world, after all, is made out of chemicals, and nearly everything we buy or build involves chemistry in some way.

Green chemistry seeks to prevent pollution in the design stage by creating chemicals and processes that are safer, healthier, and more sustainable. Green chemistry is all about innovation.

Green chemistry in action

Take Liberty Bottleworks, a small drinking bottle manufacturer in Union Gap, Washington. A few years ago, there was widespread concern about the use of a chemical called bisphenol-A, or BPA, which can mimic estrogen, potentially causing developmental problems. A common use for BPA was as a liner in metal drinking bottles, so Liberty wanted to build a bottle that was BPA-free. 

Tim Andis, Liberty’s co-founder, isn’t a chemist, but he investigated potential alternatives and found a powder coating that used a food-grade polyester. It’s been a successful formula: In the last three years, Liberty has sold more than one million bottles.

Jesus Larios, powder coat specialist and
waste management manager for Liberty,
inspecting water bottles.
Ecology is working with companies like Liberty through the Safer Chemistry Challenge. Our goal is to spread new ideas and best practices across industries, and encourage more companies to look for safer alternatives to the chemicals they use.

Northwest Green Chemistry Roundtable: Oct. 28, Tacoma

Ecology also sponsors Northwest Green Chemistry, a nonprofit working to advance green chemistry science and technology. Northwest Green Chemistry will partner with researchers, educators, and manufacturers to develop green chemistry education and inspire market-driven solutions to chemical hazards.

On Oct. 28, the Safer Chemistry Challenge and Northwest Green Chemistry will join forces for Northwest Green Chemistry Roundtable 2014 at the Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center. This conference will explore the latest advances in green chemistry. At lunch, the Safer Chemistry Challenge will honor Safer Chemistry Champions, businesses and organizations that are leaders in green chemistry, reducing hazardous chemicals, and sustainability.

More information

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