By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On June 16, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the winners of the 2020 Green Chemistry Challenge Awards. EPA states that this year’s winners “have developed new and innovative green chemistry technologies that turn potential environmental challenges into business opportunities, spurring innovation and economic development.” The 2020 winners and their innovative technologies are:
- Genomatica, San Diego, California, for creating Brontide™, a new brand of 1,3-butylene glycol, commonly used in cosmetics for moisture retention and as a carrier for plant extracts. Butylene glycol is traditionally produced from fossil fuels. Brontide™ is produced by fermenting E. coli using renewable sugars in a one-step production process, however. This method reduces greenhouse gas emissions and avoids the use of hazardous chemicals in the production process.
- Merck, Rahway, New Jersey, for improving the process used to produce certain antiviral drugs used for the treatment of diseases including hepatitis C and HIV. According to EPA, the new process improved manufacturing efficiency and sustainability of one important antiviral by more than 85 percent. This method reduces waste and hazards associated with the existing process and results in substantial cost savings.
- Johns Manville, Littleton, Colorado, for developing a biobased, formaldehyde-free thermoset binder for fiberglass reinforcement applications. Thermoset binders are used to bind glass fibers of fiberglass mats used in carpet tile backing. EPA states that this technology eliminates the use of hazardous chemicals, reduces water and energy use, and produces a product with a longer shelf life.
- Professor Steven Skerlos, University of Michigan and Fusion Coolant Systems, for creating Pure-Cut™, an alternative to traditional metalworking fluids that uses high-pressure carbon dioxide instead of oil-based lubricants. According to EPA, Pure-Cut™ can improve performance and machining tool life span compared to traditional metalworking fluids, while greatly reducing hazards to the environment and worker health.
- Vestaron, Kalamazoo, Michigan, for producing a new biopesticide called Spear®. This pesticide is based on a naturally occurring component inspired by spider venom that can effectively control target pests while showing no adverse effects on people, the environment, and non-target wildlife, such as fish and bees. EPA notes that Spear® should provide growers with a new pest management tool that also lessens environmental impacts.
EPA plans to recognize the winners at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., later this year. EPA and the American Chemical Society co-sponsor the awards. An independent panel of technical experts convened by the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute formally judged the 2020 submissions and made recommendations to EPA for the 2020 winners.