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Can the Chemical Industry Transform the Way We Consume?

Posted on June 16th, 2016 by in Chemical R&D


For years now, there has been a large, sustained effort to try to reduce the amount of waste that is going into landfills and ending up in oceans around the world. But though there have been incremental improvements in the way we think about reuse and recycling, the fact is that our global consumption problem remains massive.

Paul Hodges, a member of the World Economic Forum, argues that it is not enough to just think about ways to reduce our waste. Instead, we must radically change how our society uses and consumes.

Currently, 95% of the plastics that we use are used only once and then thrown away, at a cost of $80-$120 billion a year. The chemical industry, by focusing on greater green chemistry research and innovation, can help transform our consumption practices, and reduce the production of more burdensome materials.

A particular point that Hodges makes is that we can no longer think of sustainability as something that we aspire to as a nice option. Instead, he insists that we need to look at it as a “core economic necessity.” We have a growing population, an increasingly large share of who are older and living on fixed incomes, and society will not be able to afford to provide the essentials for everyone if we continue at our current rate.

All this may sound gloomy, but Hodges is optimistic about the ability of today’s chemists and researchers and thinkers to come up with innovative ideas that will help us address these problems. We need products that are sustainable, safe and more affordable, and he believes that there are enough bright minds to get us there as long as we have the will to do it.

Watch the video or read the full transcript of a recent Q&A session with Paul Hodges from Elsevier’s Green & Sustainable Chemistry Conference.


All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.

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