Research suggests green chemistry to take off over the next decade

By Andrew McDougall

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Green chemistry Chemical industry

As green chemistry responds and evolves to the wide array of challenges, it creates a market opportunity that will grow at a fantastic rate, according to research carried out by a market research and consulting firm.

Pike Research has released its latest reports highlighting that the market opportunity could grow from $2.8bn in 2011 to $98.5bn by 2020.

"Green chemistry markets are currently nascent, with many technologies still at laboratory or pilot scale,"​ says Pike Research president Clint Wheelock, who commented that many production-scale green chemical plants are not expected to be running at capacity for several more years.

“However, most green chemical companies are targeting large, existing chemical markets, so adoption of these products is limited less by market development issues than by the ability to feed extant markets at required levels of cost and performance."

A drop in a bucket in comparison

Wheelock added that, while Pike anticipates dramatic growth rates for green chemicals during the coming decade, these emerging markets hardly make a dent compared to the $4 trillion global chemical industry which it expects to reach $5.3tn in annual revenues in 2020.

Pike Research forecasts that green alternatives in the polymer sector will represent the highest penetration level, 5.7 percent within the total chemical market, as it is somewhat more developed than the other key sectors.

The three major themes driving the green chemistry movement documented in the report are waste minimization in the chemical production process, replacement of existing products with less toxic alternatives, and a shift to renewable (non-petroleum) feedstocks.

Ongoing discussion

At HBA Expo last September, industry experts from ingredients suppliers, government bodies, and finished goods manufacturers gathered to discuss how green chemistry might be applied to the cosmetics and personal care sectors.

They concluded that green chemistry can provide the key to lowering environmental footprints while continuing to manufacture products that consumers want at prices they are willing to pay.

The speakers were also keen to point out that green does not necessarily mean natural. Dr Liliana George from Estee Lauder argued that although consumers may believe otherwise, the more natural ingredients in a product does not mean the greener the product.

Only if a natural ingredient has been grown, harvested and treated in a sustainable way, can it be seen as a green option, she explained.

In addition, synthetics can be green as long as they have been produced using green chemistry principles.

George also called on marketing departments to figure out ways to play up green chemistry to the consumer, and explain its relationship with natural ingredients and sustainability.

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