Green chemistry gains traction in 2010

By Katie Bird

- Last updated on GMT

Green chemistry and its role in helping companies reduce their environmental footprints has been recognised at a number of industry events and new launches this year.

While the natural and organic trend is still a significant driver in the industry, green chemistry is an increasingly strong focus in the development of ingredients and finished products.

The ability of green chemistry to help improve the manufacture of some common ingredients used in cosmetics formulation was recognised at a round table held at this year’s HBA show in New York.

Reducing impact without reducing performance

Dr Liliana George, executive director of strategic developments in R&D at the Estee Lauder Companies, highlighted the ability of green chemistry to reduce the impact of a product, without necessarily changing the product itself – a challenge faced by many cosmetic formulators.

“No one is asking you to change the end product, but how you get there can be altered and improved,”​ she said.

George and other speakers at the event also highlighted the fact that green does not necessarily mean natural, and natural doesn’t necessarily mean green.

Only if a natural ingredient has been grown, harvested and treated in a sustainable way, can it be seen as a green option and synthetics can be green as long as they have been produced using green chemistry principles.

Emollients from green chemistry principles

A number of ingredients produced using green chemistry principles were launched including emollient esters from Evonik and Eastman Chemical.

Chemical supplier Eastman first launched an emollient ester produced using a catalytic process at the trade show in cosmetics in 2008, and announced earlier this year it would be producing greener versions of four of the most commonly used emollient esters in cosmetics products suing the same process.

The company won the US Environmental Protection Agency’s green chemistry award in 2009 for the biocatalytic process that it says can save 75 percent of the energy used and greenhouse gases emitted, compared to a more traditional production method.

Eastman also announced it would be looking at other classes of ingredients and highlighted surfactants as one with significant market potential.

Evonik also launched an emollient produced following green chemistry principles at the in-cosmetics trade show in April this year, called Tegosoft OER.

Rather than use the chemical catalysts (metal salts or strong acids) that are traditionally used in the conventional manufacture of fatty acid esters the company said it has used an enzyme catalyst to produce the ingredient.

This lowers the temperature needed for the reaction to proceed, from between 160 to 240 degrees centigrade, to 60 degrees centigrade, and reduces the refinements needed to the finished product therefore reducing waste.

Specialty Chemical products Rhodia also announced its focus on this area with the signing of a collaborative agreement with the French National Centre for Scientific Research, the Ecole Normale Superieure of Lyon and the East China Normal University.

The idea behind the agreement is to develop common research on materials and processes based on eco-design principles and renewable raw materials, including new polymers or surfactants developed using more efficient eco-friendly catalytic processes as well as using natural raw materials.

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