Going green

Green chemistry is gaining ground in India with alert companies following the global trend to make products from renewable feedstocks, reduce waste and energy consumption.

Pradip Kadakia, Abhishek Nigam and Ashwin Rao of Tata Strategic Management Group (TSMG) say that Indian chemical companies are making good progress in lowering the industry’s environmental footprint by adopting green chemistry strategies.

They point out that growing environmental consciousness has resulted in increasing demand for green products and processes such as green buildings. These buildings cost 3-8% more than conventional buildings but payback in less than three years through operational savings. More than 300 green buildings have already been constructed in India and 700 more are due to be built by 2010. These buildings materials will spur demand for products such as high performance glass, low VOC paints and fly ash blocks.

India with its huge arable land area has a good potential for bioresources. And despite concerns about using land for non food applications, national laboratories, academic institutions and companies are actively pursuing biodiesel, bioethanol, bio-surfactants, biopolymers and biopharmaceuticals. They cite the example of Godavari Biorefineries that has started manufacturing products from renewable resources forming an entire value chain from sugarcane to sugar to other products such as ethanol, chemicals and biofertilisers.

But though green chemistry has taken off more support will be needed from the government. And companies too need to plan out their strategy carefully rather than simply following a global trend. TSMG suggests building clear sustainability goals that can be translated to market facing goals. And companies also need to assess life cycles of existing products and look for opportunities to introduce green products.

And opportunities can come up in unexpected areas. A recent report in ICIS Chemical Business highlights the move by sporting good manufacturers to incorporate chemicals based on renewable resources.

For example, Merquinsa, a Spanish thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) producer, is collaborating with Brooks Sports, a Washington, US-based sports equipment company, to develop sustainable performance running footwear. The bio-TPUs are renewable-sourced, with 20-90% bio-content, says Merquinsa.

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