Green Chemistry

Mary Ishak 11D

Preventing Waste

What is waste prevention?

Preventing waste, or source reduction, means using less material in chemical processes in order to reduced recycling. By helping to create less waste in the first place, in the long term the need to recycle will reduce. If waste can be prevented, purchasing costs for recycling will reduce and the amount of material that must be recycled will also reduced. The stages of the waste hierachy begin with prevention, the largest stage by which industries hope to have the most prevention in order to have minimal disposal. This stage includes using less material in manufacturing products, then to keeping produces for longer, and re-using them and using less hazardous material. The next stage is preparing for re-use, checking, cleaning and repairing items or spare parts. Recycling turns waste into a new substance or product. Then the last stage is disposal which is the smallest stage that consists of landfill and incineration, which occur without energy recovery.
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Applications in the chemical industry

An example of the application of the concept of waste prevention is the production of ibuprofen, a commonly used painkiller. When ibuprofen was first produced in the 1960s, it was produced by a six-step synthesis with only 40% of the reactants actually incorporated into the ibuprofen, while 60% were wasted in the formation of unwanted by-products. Per year, approximately 30 million pounds of ibuprofen is produced, and this results in over 40 million pounds of waste. However, during the 1990s, a company developed a new synthesis of ibuprofen with the amount of reactants incorporated into the ibuprofen increased to 77-99%. This synthesis not only produced much less waste, but it is now only a three-step process. A pharmaceutical company can therefore produce more ibuprofen in less time and with less energy, which results in increased profits.

Benefits of preventing waste

Waste prevention can promote economic growth and environmental benefits when action has been made. By reducing waste that is created in the production of goods and services, companies and industries can increase the amount they produce for a given level of inputs.

The benefits of preventing waste include:

  • Producer savings - when producers create less waste they can reduce the resources required to manage that waste and devote those resources to more productive uses
  • Consumer savings - when consumers reduce their waste generation they use fewer resources, which is more costly, to purchase produces that eventually become waste.
  • Environmental impact - by preventing the degradation of the natural environment, which may create more hospitable conditions, waste prevention contributes to the long term growth potential of life and of economy.
  • Environmental benefits through the reduction in carbon emissions from material extraction and waste produced, and a reduction in the use of hazardous materials
  • Waste minimalisation can achieve more output of product per unit of input of raw materials
  • More efficient use of products means reduced costs of purchasing new materials improving the financial performance of a company


Wate prevention, 2013, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, viewed 5/11/14, <>

Cann, Michael, n/d, Chemistry Explained, viewed 5/11/14,


Waste Prevention Programme for England, 2013, Department for Environemnt Food & Rural Affairs, viewed 8/11/14, <>

Waste minimalisation, 2013, Wikipedia, viewed 8/11/14, <>