Resource recovery is defined by the extraction of elements from discarded materials for a particular next use. Known applications include composting, recycling or energy generation. This way the maximum benefits may be extracted from products and the amount of generated waste reduced (less landfill disposal) or even impeded. One possible methodology to explore a products improvement opportunities is the Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) an important concept in the resource recovery research field. LCA is a technique to assess a product’s environmental impact associated with all life stages, starting from extraction (or even planning) until disposal or recycling. The Circular Economy is based on the product life cycle concept.
Alchemia-nova conducts research on the reintegration of organic material in resources cycles, often linked to composting technologies embedded in concepts of e.g. biorefinery, sustainable building or circular economy. The institute currently also invests great effort to find efficient ways to recover metals from disposal and sludge, in accordance with “waste = nutrient”.
Green Chemistry focuses on technological approaches to reduce consumption of non-renewable resources and prevent environmental pollution. It deals with research and industrial application of harmless product materials and processes with regard to health and environment and at the same time it aims at minimizing the use and generation of harmful substances. Therefore, it is also known as Sustainable Chemistry. Alchemia-nova’s contribution covers among other things the considerate extraction of vegetable substances (e.g. ultrasound in combination with enzymes).
These twelve founding principles (Anastas und Warner, 1998) of Green Chemistry are applied standard at alchemia-nova:
It is better to prevent waste than to treat or clean up waste after it has been created.
- Atom Economy
Synthetic methods should be designed to maximize the incorporation of all materials used in the process into the final product.
- Less Hazardous Chemical Syntheses
Wherever practicable, synthetic methods should be designed to use and generate substances that possess little or no toxicity to human health and the environment.
- Designing Safer Chemicals
Chemical products should be designed to affect their desired function while minimizing their toxicity.
- Safer Solvents and Auxiliaries
The use of auxiliary substances (e.g., solvents, separation agents, etc.) should be made unnecessary wherever possible and innocuous when used.
- Design for Energy Efficiency
Energy requirements of chemical processes should be recognized for their environmental and economic impacts and should be minimized. If possible, synthetic methods should be conducted at ambient temperature and pressure.
- Use of Renewable Feedstocks
A raw material or feedstock should be renewable rather than depleting whenever technically and economically practicable.
- Reduce Derivatives
Unnecessary derivatization (use of blocking groups, protection/ deprotection, temporary modification of physical/chemical processes) should be minimized or avoided if possible, because such steps require additional reagents and can generate waste.
Catalytic reagents (as selective as possible) are superior to stoichiometric reagents.
- Design for Degradation
Chemical products should be designed so that at the end of their function they break down into innocuous degradation products and do not persist in the environment.
- Real-time analysis for Pollution Prevention
Analytical methodologies need to be further developed to allow for real-time, in-process monitoring and control prior to the formation of hazardous substances.
- Inherently Safer Chemistry for Accident Prevention
Substances and the form of a substance used in a chemical process should be chosen to minimize the potential for chemical accidents, including releases, explosions, and fires.