Environmental Chemistry

Waste Management and Green Chemistry

Studying different types of pollution and its effect has definitely made you realize the necessity to save the environment. So how can we save our immediate environment? We can achieve this by controlling environmental pollution and by the implementation of different measures, strategies, activities, and protocols. The adoption of these steps and strategies to control air, water, soil, and industrial waste pollution is nothing but waste management. Let’s study more about green chemistry in this section.

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What is Waste Management?

Waste management, also known as waste disposal, is the steps and actions taken to manage waste from the start or release of waste to end or final disposal.  It includes the collection of waste, transport of waste, waste treatment and waste disposal along with regulation and monitoring of the waste disposal.

Management of waste also covers the legal and regulatory framework related to the guidelines of waste management and recycling. Waste can be present in the form of solid, liquid and gas. However, the steps to dispose and management of each form is different.

Waste management and the regulatory framework encompass every category of waste such as industrial waste, biological waste, household waste and special types of waste. Special types of waste include biomedical and radioactive waste materials. All the above type of waste have the potential to harm human health but the degree of effect may vary.

Waste Management

Source: Wikipedia

Waste Disposal and Management

Majority of the waste products can be traced back to human activities for example waste disposal after extraction and processing of raw materials in the industries. You may have seen the non-uniformity in the waste disposal and management practices in developing and developed countries.

Management practices also vary within a country depending upon region (rural or urban region) and sectors (industrial or residential sector). The sole purpose of waste management is to decrease the impact of the adverse effect of waste on the environment, health of living organisms, and aesthetics.

The major part of waste management is municipal solid waste management or MSW management. The bulk of MSW consists of industrial waste, waste from commercial activities and household waste. However, household waste is not the only solid waste. The waste discards originating from agricultural, medical, mining and other industrial activities falls into the solid waste category as well.

The disposal of these wastes improperly can lead to environmental pollution and degradation. Therefore, management of wastes and proper disposal is very crucial to maintain the health of living organisms and prevent environmental degradation.

Waste Management

Source: Wikipedia

Collection and Disposal of Waste

You might have seen small dustbins around your house and even dustbins in particular places in your community. These are the small initiative to keep your house and area near you clean. Hence, the domestic waste collection is done in small bins and then it is transferred to the larger community bins. The management, establishment of community bins are overseen by private and municipal employees.

Larger vehicles move around the places and collect the discards from the community bins and discard it into the disposable site. It is the place where the waste accumulation takes place before further processing. Sorting of garbage on the basis of biodegradable substances and non-biodegradable substances take place at this site.

  • Non-biodegradable compounds include glass, plastic, and metal scraps which further undergo recycling process
  • Biodegradable compounds can easily be converted to compost. Thus, they are deposited into landfills.

Consequences of Improper Waste Disposal

If waste does not find its way to garbage bins then it will gradually enter the sewers. Part of the garbage will be eaten by cattle. However, non-biodegradable waste such as metal scraps, glasses, and polythene bags will block the sewer system and cause problem and inconvenience.

Moreover, the consumption of polythene bags by cattle can kill the cattle also. Thus, it is very important to practice proper waste management protocol and discard the domestic waste in bins so the waste will eventually be collected and disposed of. Poor waste management can cause health problem which can further lead to epidemics because of the contamination of groundwater.

It is extremely hazardous for people who are regularly in direct contact with the wastes such as rag pickers and employees working for disposing of the waste. These people handle the waste without any types of protective devices such as gloves, masks, etc.

Green Chemistry

India was able to gain self-sufficiency in food by the end of the late 20th century with the help of pesticides and fertilizers. Moreover, India was able to gain food self-sufficiency by implementing better methods of farming, irrigation, high-quality seeds, etc. However, overuse of soil and constant use of fertilizers lead to deterioration of soil quality, water quality, and air quality.

So, how can you solve the problem? By ceasing India’s way to development or by stopping the development process? No, definitely not. Thus, it is essential to discover and adopt better methods that do not control or stop the development but it helps to reduce the environmental degradation. Here, Green Chemistry comes into play. Let us learn more about green chemistry.

What is Green Chemistry?

Green chemistry is a whole new way of thinking or entire new production approach that helps in using the existing knowledge and fundamentals of chemistry and other sciences to decrease the negative impact environment is facing. Green chemistry is different processes and methods that can help in minimizing the effect of pollution or environmental deterioration.

It is a combination of chemistry and chemical engineering for the betterment of the environment. There are methods in industrial processes that not only add to the environmental pollution but the processes are not cost-effective and harmful to the environment. These processes are the cause of hazardous waste generation.

Moreover, disposal of by-product generated is the cause of environmental pollution. The process should be such that even though the by-product cannot add anything gainful but it should not add to the environmental pollution.

Importance of Green Chemistry

Therefore, it is important to utilize the presently available knowledge to reduce the chemical hazards and also help in developmental activities. This should form the basis of green chemistry. So, what are the measures that need to be taken? For instance, we should be careful while using certain highly toxic organic solvents like toluene, benzene, carbon tetrachloride, etc.

We know any chemical reaction requires reactants, a medium in which reaction will take place and proper attacking reagents. Physical parameters such as pressure, temperature, and catalyst will decide the extent of any reaction. Therefore, it is essential to use environmental friendly mediums that can form environmental friendly products. Hence, it will help in forming products without releasing any chemical pollutants into the environment.

It is important to select starting materials during a synthesis process so the end products yield almost 100%. This is possible by employing optimum conditions during the synthesis process. It would be advantageous to carry out the chemical reactions in an aqueous medium because of properties of water. Water has low volatility and high specific heat. Furthermore, it is non-inflammable, cost-effective, and is devoid of carcinogenic properties.

Application of Green Chemistry in Day-to-Day Life

Dry Cleaning of Clothes

Earlier it was prevalent to use Tetrachloroethene (Cl2C=CCl2) solvent as the dry cleaning agent. However, it is toxic and has carcinogenic properties. Moreover, it can contaminate groundwater and can add up to water pollution. However, nowadays liquefied carbon dioxide acts as the detergent instead of Tetrachloroethene for dry cleaning of clothes.

Liquid CO2 is less harmful and the extent of groundwater contamination is less in comparison to Tetrachloroethene. Moreover, hydrogen peroxide is also used these days for bleaching of clothes. H2O2 provide better results and require the lesser quantity of water.

Bleaching of Paper

Earlier people were using chlorine for bleaching of paper. However, hydrogen peroxide along with a proper catalyst produces the similar bleaching action. Therefore, these days chlorine is replaced by hydrogen peroxide (H2O2)

Synthesis of Chemicals

Nowadays commercial preparation of ethanal is by a one-step oxidation process. This helps in ethanal production by ethene oxidation in the presence of a catalyst (ionic) in an aqueous medium. This process yields almost 90%.

CH2=CH2 + O→ CH3CHO (90%)

Catalyst Pd(II)/Cu(II) in water

Solved Question for You

Question: Which of the option is the greenest solvent?

  1. Formaldehyde
  2. Ethanol
  3. Water
  4. Benzene

Solution: Option C.

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