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Principles of Green Chemistry

Key Concepts

Paul Anastas and John C. Warner defined green chemistry as the utilization of a set of principles that reduces or eliminates the use or generation of hazardous substances in the design, manufacture, and applications of chemical products.1

The 12 principles of green chemistry are:

  1. It is better to prevent waste than to treat or clean up waste after it is formed.
  2. Synthetic methods should be designed to maximize the incorporation of all materials used in the process into the final product.
  3. Wherever practicable, synthetic methodologies should be designed to use and generate substances that possess little or no toxicity to human health and the environment.
  4. Chemical products should be designed to preserve efficacy of function while reducing toxicity.
  5. The use of auxiliary substances (e.g. solvents and separation agents) should be made unnecessary wherever possible and innocuous when used.
  6. Energy requirements should be recognized for their environmental and economic impacts and should be minimized. Synthetic methods should be conducted at ambient temperature and pressure.
  7. A raw material or feedstock should be renewable rather than depleting wherever technically and economically practicable.
  8. Unnecessary derivatization (blocking group, protection and deprotection, temporary modification of physical or chemical processes) should be avoided whenever possible.
  9. Catalytic reagents (as selective as possible) are superior to stoichiometric reagents.
  10. Chemical products should be designed so that at the end of their function they do not persist in the environment and break down into innocuous degradation products.
  11. Analytical methodologies need to be further developed to allow for real-time, in-process monitoring and control prior to the formation of hazardous substances.
  12. Substances and the form of a substance used in a chemical process should be chosen to minimize potential for chemical accidents, including releases, explosions, and fires.

These 12 principles fall into 4 broad groups:

In practice, making a chemical process comply with the principles of green chemistry may mean:

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Examples of Green Chemistry Applied in Industry

Reducing Energy Use

Reducing Waste

Reducing Hazards

Reducing Resource Use and Utilizing Renewable Resources

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1. Anastas, P.T., Warner, J. C. Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998
2. For more information, see AUS-e-NEWS March 2016 feature article on polylactic acid (PLA)