What is it about?

Many processes in the chemical and pharmaceutical industry produce a large amount of waste. Often this waste is toxic. The environment factor or E factor assesses the environmental impact of manufacturing processes. This eventually led to the concept of ‘green chemistry’ which aims to prevent pollution by reducing overall waste and the use of toxic starting materials. These concepts have resulted in major strides in the chemical industry. Green catalytic processes that use microbes etc. have been developed. Chemical industries have also improved their efficiency of solvent use, which has led to a great reduction in pollution. The E factor has helped highlight the importance of moving from fossil-fuel based materials and resources to bio-based resources. It has also emphasized the importance of reusing and recycling materials to conserve resources and eliminate waste.

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Why is it important?

The E factor made the chemical and pharmaceutical industries wake up to the problem of waste production and subsequent environmental pollution. Earlier, these industries would focus on getting the maximum possible product from the starting materials. But after the introduction of the E factor, the focus has shifted to optimizing resource efficiency and reducing waste. This has also resulted in the development of many ‘green catalysts.’ It has further prompted the replacement of toxic or hazardous solvents and starting materials with more environmentally friendly materials. This has improved the sustainability of the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. KEY TAKEAWAY The E factor is an easy way to evaluate the efficiency, sustainability, and environmental friendliness of a process. The introduction of the E factor has helped minimize waste and pollution in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. It is also pushing these industries towards a greener future.

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This page is a summary of: The E factor 25 years on: the rise of green chemistry and sustainability, Green Chemistry, January 2017, Royal Society of Chemistry, DOI: 10.1039/c6gc02157c.
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