Green chemistry is the key to more complete recycling

It will never be possible to recycle everything perfectly; But nothing would be usefully recycled without innovative and appropriate chemistry

Previously, we explored some interesting research applications in chemistry, which show how using this science, rather than abandoning it, can point to possible solutions to the much-needed mitigation of environmental impact on the planet.

Today, instead of limiting myself to a precise field of application with examples, I would like to present to the reader a file The basic principle of green chemistryand explain examples of direct application without limiting myself to a specific sector. The principle, which will sound familiar to environmentalists from all walks of life, is the principle of circularity. In green chemistry, as originally formulated in the 1980s, Circularity means recycling with low environmental impact of all the atoms that make up a particular chemical. Chemistry is the transformation of matter. With it, it is possible to design real circular transformation processes, rather than simply reusing a specific product. This recycling process can take place either directly in chemical reactors, by transforming an expired product into a regenerated product or another useful product, or through biological processes.capable of transforming waste into compounds useful for the life of living organisms.

Of course, the main objective is Introducing innovative chemical steps to transform originally designed products without worrying about what happens at end of life. Perhaps the products are designed to reduce our impact on the environment, which in turn risks becoming another source of catastrophic pollution.

This is the case with solar panels. Since around 2000, millions of solar panels have been installed worldwide, with an expected life cycle of 25 to 30 years. This means that in the short term, a large part of this panel fleet will be eliminated, with an expected peak between 2036 and 2045. For its polluting effect, silicon, which is currently the most efficient, is also a very polluting in terms of volumes. . destined for landfills.

Thanks to a series of different chemical processes, it is now a question of extracting with great efficiency almost all the components of the panels at the end of their life; But, if we analyze all the operations envisaged so far, faced with an excellent ecological balance sheet, financial sustainability has not yet been achieved.
For this last reason, certain chemical processes are particularly interesting which, instead of being limited to pure and simple re-extraction, make it possible to obtain new recoverable materials from waste; And this is exactly the case, for example, has just been demonstrated In laboratories in Singapore, a process has been developed for obtaining thermoelectric materials from used plates, and in particular from silicon, it that is, a class of rare materials capable of converting temperature differences into electric current and vice versa.

Now consider a second example, this time already on the market. Not everyone knows that the textile industry is the second in the world in terms of environmental impact, both due to energy consumption and pollution during production and at the end of its life, due the dispersion of the fibers used.. The ubiquitous nylon is among the products with the greatest environmental impact. What if they were produced from plastic waste, waste from the textile industry, old carpets and discarded fishing nets? This is exactly what has been achieved by producing a regenerated nylon, called Econyl, identical to the original. Waste is chemically treated, reduced to small particles, then recycled into entirely new fibers. The whole process, in addition to reusing waste, uses less water and energy and produces fewer pollutants than conventional nylon production, and can convert its own end-of-life products into new fibers, in an almost infinite process, in a prime example of the Green Chemistry-Based Atomic Chemical Transformation Cycle. Since 2011, products made from Econyl have been successfully launched in the market, which also indicates economic sustainability.

It will never be possible to recycle everything perfectly; But nothing would be usefully recycled without innovative and appropriate chemistry.


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