One of the in-thing in chemical industries is to go in for Green Chemistry. All chemical factories worth its salt will be looking at factory effluent treatment, waste water treatment, electrostatic capacitors to clean the exhaust from the chimney, catalyst recovery and more. All this because the environment has to be protected and watching emission in any form is a must.
Green Chemistry is a bit different. The term green chemistry was coined by Paul Anastas in 1991. There are a dozen principles which govern the practice of green chemistry. The important one is to reinvent the chemical processes that ultimately produce less waste, less heat and less unwanted by products. The objective is to resort to that chemical equation that involves lesser constituent chemicals that are needed to produce the end product. In the 1960s ibuprofen was produced using a six stage process and of all the atoms used in the process, nearly 60 percent were wasted. A new process which improved the atom economy to 77-99 percent was developed thereby producing less waste, a saving of three steps and consequently cheaper ibuprofen.
This morning I had an occasion to try out a new shirt and on extracting the shirt from the plastic wrap it came in, I found apart from the shirt there were the following items.
- Plastic cover
- Cardboard back stiffener
- Plastic neck stiffener
- Plastic Bow
- Cardboard neck liner
- Plastic clips – quantity three
- Pins – quantity two
A total of ten items! Not only I had to make sure that no more pins were hiding among folds, but also make sure that the items were reasonable crushed to be easily accommodated in the dustbin. I have also experienced certain brands of shirts have as many as six pins.
A country like Bangladesh exported shirts worth 1733 million USD, as per figures of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers & Exporters Association, in the year 2011-12. Assuming an average of, say, 10 USD per shirt, we are talking about approximately 170 million shirts. Now that is only from Bangladesh!
If we were to adopt an equivalent of green chemistry in the garment manufacturing process, we could possible do away with all the plastic clips and pins, assuming there is no way we can reduce the other items. Now that means the number of items additionally added reduces from ten to five.
Can’t the importers of the shirts, change the specifications of packaging to be friendlier and make an attempt to do away with this waste? Can’t the shirt manufacturers innovate to reduce the waste and get the customer to agree?