Posted on 8 September 2016
Avtar Matharu, Deputy Director, Green Chemistry of Excellence will give the prestigious Chemistry Section Presidential Address today in Swansea at the 2016 British Association Festival of Science.
His address, “Chemistry: a circular sustainable future” will explore chemistry’s role in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Avtar Matharu will highlight how the European chemical manufacturing industry must adapt to ensure sustainable consumption through optimising resources, reducing waste generation and engaging the public. Then discuss the demand to train sustainable-thinking scientists to keep pace with the latest developments and transition from ‘brown’ to ‘green’ chemistry.
I am delighted to present my thoughts on current and future thinking for Sustainable Chemistry in the 21st Century. Sustainability is a much-used modern day buzz word that encompasses economic, social and environmental values, i.e the three pillars of sustainability. Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. These definitions developed at the end of the last Century are continually being refined and in my presentation I will define the five pillars of sustainability within the context of the five Olympic rings.
The presentation will highlight the outcomes of UN Sustainable Development Summit (25th September 2015) which adopted the document entitled, “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” setting out 17 Sustainable Development goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. In particular SDG 12 which strives to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns; promote resource and energy efficiency, sustainable infrastructure, and provides access to basic services, green and decent jobs and a better quality of life for all. Key targets of SDG 12 include the substantial reduction of waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse and the notion of a systemic approach and cooperation among actors operating in the supply chain, from producer to final consumer which are relevant to Sustainable Chemistry for the 21st Century. SDG 12 involves engaging consumers through awareness-raising and education on sustainable consumption and lifestyles, providing consumers with adequate information through standards and labels and engaging in sustainable public procurement, i.e., Circular Economy.
The state of current and future chemical manufacturing industry will be presented within an European context. Certainly, the future of the UK and European chemical industry as a high growth economic asset is under severe strain. Although the global chemical market will more than double in the next 20 years; from EUR 2.6 trillion (2015) to EUR 5.6 trillion (2035), in reality 5-year growth levels are in steady decline forecast to drop 0.6 percentage points over the next 20 years. Asia's share of worldwide chemical sales will rise to from 52% to 62% whilst Europe will drop from 19.2% to 12.9%. A new emerging concept will be discussed which is gaining traction across Europe – the age of application: chemistry 4.0 - which is a journey toward optimised use of resources, multi-feedstock supply, a digitized integrated industry set-up, and a genuine focus on customer applications and new business models.
Finally, the importance of high quality education and training will discussed if our industry is to transition from ‘brown’ chemistry to ‘green’ and sustainable Chemistry commensurate with the needs of the 21st Century. Unfortunately, the current picture is mixed but demand for future sustainable-thinking scientists in the manufacturing industry is high. New educational programmes and Continual Professional Development (CPD) will feature highly for those industries that want to keep pace with the latest developments in Sustainable Chemistry.