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    The Revolution of Renewable Chemicals: A Sustainable Solution for a Greener Future

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    According to SNS Insider, it is estimated that the market size of renewable chemicals market is accounted for $117.95 billion and this market will grow at a CAGR of 11.3 % over the forecast period of 2023-2030.

    Renewable chemicals, also known as bio-based chemicals, are a rapidly emerging sector in the chemical industry. These chemicals are derived from renewable sources such as biomass, agricultural waste, and other organic materials. Unlike traditional chemicals, which are derived from fossil fuels, renewable chemicals offer a sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative. The production of renewable chemicals involves various processes, including fermentation, enzymatic conversion, and chemical synthesis. These processes utilize the natural properties of biomass to create a wide range of chemical compounds that can be used in various industries, including agriculture, pharmaceuticals, and consumer goods.

    According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from energy combustion and industrial processes increased by 0.9% or 321 million metric tons (Mt) in 2022, reaching a record high of 36.8 billion metric tons (Gt). Among the emerging markets and developing economies in Asia, excluding China, emissions grew the most, rising by 4.2% or 206 Mt CO2. A significant portion of this increase can be attributed to coal-fired power generation.

    CO2 Emission
    CO2 Emission

    One of the key advantages of renewable chemicals is their reduced carbon footprint. By utilizing organic materials, these chemicals help to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Additionally, renewable chemicals offer a more sustainable solution to the growing demand for chemical products, as they can be produced in a continuous cycle without depleting finite resources.

    Moreover, renewable chemicals have the potential to revolutionize the chemical industry by providing innovative and eco-friendly alternatives to traditional products. For example, bio-based plastics derived from renewable sources can replace petroleum-based plastics, reducing plastic waste and its detrimental impact on the environment. Global plastics production has experienced staggering growth, doubling since the turn of the century to reach an alarming 400 million metric tons annually. Surprisingly, while plastic products have an average lifespan of only 10 years, their decomposition process can take up to a mind-boggling 500 years, contingent upon their composition and disposal methods. This has resulted in a dire situation, with an estimated 30 million metric tons of plastics accumulating in the ocean between 1970 and 2019, and over 100 million tons accumulating in rivers and lakes. The consequences of such massive plastic waste pollution in waterways are devastating, wreaking havoc on marine life and ecosystems. Asia bears the brunt of this crisis, accounting for more than 80% of the global plastic waste that ends up in the ocean. However, it is important to note that wealthier regions, despite being responsible for a mere five percent of ocean plastic waste inputs, often export substantial quantities of plastic waste to developing regions for processing. This practice raises ethical concerns and highlights the need for a comprehensive global approach to tackle this issue.

    Fortunately, amidst this environmental crisis, there is a ray of hope. The market for renewable chemicals is experiencing rapid expansion, driven by growing environmental concerns and government regulations that promote sustainable practices. This shift towards renewable chemicals offers a promising solution to mitigate the adverse effects of plastic waste on our planet.

    The demand for renewable chemicals has recently surged due to stringent environmental laws governing the production and disposal of petrochemicals by regulatory agencies. This global trend towards renewable chemicals has been driven by a multitude of severe restrictions and government initiatives aimed at improving the environment.

    Regulatory bodies generally support the adoption of innovative chemistries that can replace outdated petroleum-based alternatives. However, it is crucial to recognize that biobased chemicals are subject to the same regulations as any other chemical substance in the United States, governed by the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Interestingly, biobased chemicals classified as new substances may face even greater scrutiny under this legislation compared to well-established chemicals.

    By implementing (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals) REACH, the European Union has taken a proactive approach to ensuring the safety of its citizens and environment. The regulation requires companies to register and provide detailed information about the chemicals they produce or import, enabling authorities to assess their potential risks. This comprehensive database allows for better monitoring and control of hazardous substances, reducing the likelihood of adverse effects on human health and the environment. Moreover, REACH encourages the substitution of hazardous chemicals with safer alternatives through its authorization process. Substances of very high concern (SVHCs) are subject to strict restrictions or even banned unless companies can demonstrate that their use is essential for society and there are no suitable alternatives.

    By adhering to these regulations, the chemicals industry can contribute to a sustainable future while ensuring the safety of both people and the environment.

    Recent Development

    In March 2023, to establish the Circa Renewable Chemistry Institute (CRCI), the University of York partnered with Circa Group, a renewable chemicals company. The main focus of this recently established institute is to foster the growth and adoption of bio-based products within the chemical industry, with a strong emphasis on their improved safety and sustainability. As a result of this collaboration, students will have the opportunity to engage in real-world projects related to renewable chemistry, thereby enhancing their future prospects in the industry. One notable achievement of this partnership is the creation of Cyrene™, a versatile green solvent that often surpasses the performance of toxic petroleum-based materials. Cyrene™ finds applications in various sectors, including pharmaceuticals, paints and coatings, textile recycling, agrichemicals, and many others.

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