Next Generation Environmental Technologies: Benefits and Barriers

Next Generation Environmental Technologies: Benefits and Barriers

Next Generation Environmental Technologies: Benefits and Barriers

Next Generation Environmental Technologies: Benefits and Barriers

Synopsis

Examines the potential of Next Generation Environmental Technologies, which reduce or eliminate use of hazardous materials in manufacturing processes and products.

Excerpt

This section presents conclusions based on our case study results and observations based on the analyses of barriers.

NGETs Can Provide Benefits in All Areas Studied

NGETs have the potential to make a significant contribution to a new approach to environmental protection. NGETs represent an important class of pollution prevention technology that redesigns products and processes at the molecular level to reduce or eliminate the use of hazardous materials. Our case studies demonstrate that NGETs have already provided a wide range of environmental, security, health and safety, and economic benefits. In some cases, NGETs can provide these benefits for no additional cost or even at a lower cost compared with today's practices. And because NGETs are relatively new technologies, they may help policymakers ensure environmental quality with less reliance on costly regulations as they mature.

The nation's economy increasingly relies on a wide variety of chemical products and processes. Progress in slowing the use of potentially hazardous substances has not kept pace with other positive environmental trends over the past 30 years. Finding new ways to ensure that needed chemicals pose no or little risk requires new thinking into the means by which they are produced and employed. Over the past decade, green chemistry, an important source of NGETs, has begun to provide alternatives to chemicals that are known to be dangerous or to potentially pose risks. The case studies suggest that green chemistry technologies also have potential to expand beyond their current niches and provide significant long-term benefits spanning the four areas highlighted in this study. NGETs may help eliminate emissions from broad classes of chemicals through inventive solvent choices; toxic reagents may be nearly completely displaced by an environmentally benign alternative; the security risks of dangerous chemicals may be avoided through the creation and adoption of less hazardous alternatives; and synthetic processes may be more readily adapted to take into consideration environmental concerns.

NGETs Can Address Uncertainties

In addition to addressing currently known risks, NGETs can also help address those that are imperfectly understood. The principles of green chemistry guide scientists and engineers toward processes that intrinsically embody more of the process inputs in the final product and thus are more efficient and generate less waste. Such principles can eliminate potential environmental problems before they arise.

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