August 16, 2022

Unleash what we know about chemistry.

I’ve been watching a live segment of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s annual summit in relief from the inability to attend the meeting in person. First of all, it didn’t work — I’m still quite disappointed that I wasn’t able to attend.

I would say one hour session.”Design turns ambition into action., “There are many speakers For those who missed the live broadcast I recommend you to look

When you are alive and breathing in circles It is often difficult to be impressed with the content. even in this new area Many ideas can feel increased, continual, and chipped off to the edge of the problem. The overall lack of an “wow” idea often arises. But this shouldn’t surprise us. After all, most people working on circular economy innovations have been part of the linear economy for a lifetime. It can be difficult to ignore the present reality and think of a better future. In it are the key points I had after watching the EMF Summit 22 live stream:

We have to stop learning what we have buried so much in the last century. To make progress we need to see

There are many ways that are true. But I will focus here only one way. We have to start by unlearning what we know about chemistry. I’m obviously quite biased as a chemist. But don’t panic The person I will mention is also a chemist. Ilham CadrySolvay’s CEO spoke at the conference that chemistry was How is it the “mother of all industries”? In fact, without chemicals? We have a limited set of materials that can be used. Even the vast majority of biomaterials on the market are synthesized, modified or chemically fortified. What does it mean to dismiss what we’ve learned about chemistry so far? I’ll answer that question from a few perspectives:

Number 1: Chemist

One thing I’ve learned since I graduated as a desktop chemist is that You can’t expect chemists to design safe chemicals if they aren’t taught how. As a “basic science,” chemistry is taught the same way almost everywhere and from the same old books. part of that agreement In my opinion, ok, the basis of chemistry does not exist and will probably not change.

The current drawback, however, is that chemists don’t need to learn about toxicology, green chemistry, or how biological systems synthesize new chemicals if you ask Paul Anastas and John Warner, authors. semen book about green chemistry They’ll both tell you this is something that needs to change. To design safer and more environmentally friendly chemistry We need to change the way we teach chemists.

Another important part of retraining chemists is to get them to stop thinking linearly. Chemical reactions are usually written on paper like this:

as a chemist We know that all chemical reactions are theoretically reversible. Even though I already know We often do not consider the real need to reverse future reactions. This is difficult. But I would argue here that chemists need to think more circularly if the economy operates more circularly. (Full disclosure, I just had to search the web to make sure “circle” was actually the word.) This means designing a chemical reaction. especially for polymers which can be easily reversed to create new materials

To design safer and more environmentally friendly chemistry We need to change the way we teach chemists.

2nd place: Product Designer

If chemists need to learn how to design safer chemicals. Product designers and engineers must learn to evaluate products for safety and circulation. The product development process should take into account human health and the environment. atomic economy energy efficiency and the turnover of products and materials regardless of sector. Too often not to do or do without real control over the final product. After spending a lot of time as a corporate sustainability practitioner and seeing the differences between companies with and without sustainability included in the product development process, I can confidently say that developing products without sustainability checks and balances today is unforgivable.

Number 3: End User

Product users have to develop both skepticism about their claims and willingness to ask manufacturers and retailers the tough questions. The old adage (at least as long as I’ve been around), the adage that B2C companies aren’t. Take as much pressure from customers to make sustainable choices as B2B companies, in some respects. Large corporate clients tend to have their own sustainability goals. This can at least partially be done through sustainable procurement. They also have purchasing power that few people have.

We must learn from past mistakes. Forget the old way of doing things. then move on

But the personal voice of the consumer may be as loud as with the voice of corporate buyers and large corporations If they actually use those sounds and educate themselves about the questions to ask. in other words Do not ask that the product “Chemical free” or “non-toxic” or just “sustainable.” Most of these questions are meaningless. Instead, ask which certificates the product must have to ensure the safety of users and the environment. If a product contains a chemical regulatory or NGO listing, or even a detailed ingredient disclosure with hazard information. Although you may not get exactly what you asked for. But rest assured that these pertinent questions will get companies noticed.

my takeaway

There is a lot that can be done. (And it needs to be done) to drive us towards a circular economy. And most of us still have a lot to learn about how to get there. We must learn from past mistakes. Forget the old way of doing things. then move on I believe this is especially true in chemistry. in order to do so We need to redesign the chemistry both at the bench. at the material manufacturer and at the product manufacturer. Plus, people of all levels (and consumer areas) needn’t be afraid to ask less difficult questions.

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