Sustainable Raw Material Base and Green Chemistry

New Raw Materials Create a New Set of Challenges for Green Chemistry

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The 12 Principles of Green Engineering

The twelve principles of green engineering put forward in 2003 are far less well known due to the cryptic wording. However it is well worth taking a look at them:

  • 1. Inherent Rather: Than Circumstantial Designers need to strive to ensure that all materials and energy inputs and outputs are as inherently nonhazardous as possible.
  • 2. Prevention Instead of Treatment: It is better to prevent waste than to treat or clean up waste after it is formed.
  • 3. Design for Separation: Separation and purification operations should be designed to minimize energy consumption and materials use.
  • 4. Maximize Efficiency: Products, processes, and systems should be designed to maximize mass, energy, space, and time efficiency.
  • 5. Output-Pulled Versus Input-Pushed Products, processes, and systems should be “output pulled" rather than "input pushed" through the use of energy and materials.
  • 6. Conserve Complexity: Embedded entropy and complexity must be viewed as an investment when making design choices on recycle, reuse, or beneficial disposition.
  • 7. Durability Rather Than Immortality: Targeted durability, not immortality, should be a design goal.
  • 8. Meet Need, Minimize Excess: Design for unnecessary capacity or capability (e.g., “one size fits all”) solutions should be considered a design flaw.
  • 9. Minimize Material Diversity: Material diversity in multicomponent products should be minimized to promote disassembly and value retention.
  • 10. Integrate Material and Energy Flows: Design of products, processes, and systems must include integration and interconnectivity with available energy and materials flows.
  • 11. Design for Commercial “Afterlife”: Products, processes, and systems should be designed for performance in a commercial "afterlife."
  • 12. Renewable Rather Than Depleting: Material and energy inputs should be renewable rather than depleting.

Are the 12 Principles Still Valid and Which One Should Be Added?

It is now 20 / 10 years since these principles were first published. Given the huge challenges which the transformation of the energy and raw material base presents to the chemical industry and chemical engineering, it is reasonable to ask whether some of the principles should be reviewed and whether new principles should be added.


The principles of green chemistry and green engineering mandate the use of renewable raw materials. In the context of minimized resource consumption, engineers are currently discussing cascaded utilization of biomass and integrated production strategies for biorefineries. Utilization of residue streams from other industries, particularly food and cellulose production, is a major consideration.

Competing uses of biomass, in particular food and animal feed production and power generation, as well as water and nature conservation issues create significant conflict potential. The chemical industry will have to respond by developing highly efficient process designs and higher product value-added.

The transition in the raw material base extends beyond renewables. The role of natural gas, coal and even CO2 will be at least as important in the medium term. In the past, CO2 was regarded as totally irrelevant in the raw material mix due to the very low carbon energy level.

There is now considerable interest in CO2, particularly in applications where the target product has a structural element containing carbon and one or two oxygen atoms.