Nowadays there are numerous initiatives, incentives, and award programs aimed at promoting and advancing innovations in sustainable development for chemistry. Companies and institutions can personally confirm the economic advantage that a change for sustainable development options provides.
Recognized advances in processes like the enzymatic catalysis of synthetic reactions, solvent substitutions and recycling of byproducts and wastes, besides diminishing the environmental impact, through the improvement of synthetic efficiency and general productivity, may lessen waste streams, energy input and the necessity for dangerous reagents.
Sustainable development processes are not extra costly anymore. Today, the major obstacle for changing the industry is humans’ resistance to change. This is specially true for the organic chemistry area.
The E-factor, which represents the mass efficiency of a process or mass waste/unit of a product to show the big potential for using waste-prevention plans to improve the cost-effectiveness of manufacturing, is in excess of 100 g of waste for 1 g of drug produced in the pharmaceutical industry.
Some professionals believe that the difficulty behind changing this has its origin in the training of organic chemists in charge of developing the reaction routes. Chemistry degree programs lack toxicology classes, thus, it is left out of the thinking during the initial design phase of a process.
The industry has always been centered on developing the most efficient and fastest synthesis route; but, along with the concern for the environment and for the cost of getting rid of toxic solvents and waste products, has come the need for reducing waste streams and lowering energy input.
Sustainable development principles are becoming decisive for process chemistry; these are the basis of a movement striving to make environmental impact a priority for the design of processes in R&D and manufacturing. In order to get the most out of sustainable development chemistry, the constructs must be an inherent consideration and ingredient in the initial design of complex synthetic processes.
Although the complexity of pharmaceutical manufacturing for chemical syntheses is a big roadblock for change, processes are being improved, pharmaceutical companies are influencing their chemists, and they are responding.
Economic incentives are becoming the main interest towards sustainable development chemistry; it pays to go green. There are 3 elements to ensure the powerful implementation of sustainable development processes: early waste prevention, prudent selection of starting materials, and the pick of a high atom economy manufacturing process.
Atom economy is measured by the amount of material used in a process that actually becomes part of the product. Oxidation/reduction reactions are among the less atom-economical ones; it would be important to choose a starting material which is already at the correct oxidation state.
Pharmaceutical companies must make key decisions at the initial stages of the processes, since once a drug and its manufacturing process are FDA approved, it can become very expensive to make changes. Pharmaceutical consultants provide their expertise to assist in the process.