From the inception of any process, pollution prevention should be a fundamental objective. That objective should be pursued aggressively through process development, process design, engineering to construction, startup, and operation. It should also be a continuing objective of plant engineers and operators once the unit begins production (see Figure 3.6.1).
The best time to consider pollution prevention is when the process is first conceived. Research should explore the possibility of alternate pathways for chemical synthesis. Once the process has undergone significant development at the pilot plant, making major process changes or modifications is generally difficult and costly. For instance, the pharmaceutical industry is restricted from process modifications once the clinical efficacy of the drug is established.
An international consensus is growing on the need to use pollution prevention and clean production principles for the following:
• Changing industrial raw materials to less toxic chemicals
• Improving the materials' efficiency of manufacturing processes
• Designing products to increase environmental performance over their entire life cycles
Some of the research opportunities being explored include (Illman 1993):
• Aqueous, solvent-based reactions
• Ambient-temperature reactions
• Just-in-time in situ generation of toxic intermediates
• Chiral catalysts
• Artificial enzymes
• Built-in recyclability
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