Predictive Tools Foster Sustainability [On Location]

In the first-ever session of the Environmental Division's new "Applying Chemical Engineering Towards a Green Economy," John Leazer discussed several key ways in which the EPA is working to promote and assist industry in their ongoing sustainability efforts. Of special significance are some software tools available from the EPA. TEST stands for Toxicity Estimation Software Tool. With this free software download from the EPA site, a scientist can estimate the toxic properties of a new (or unstudied) chemical to predict its environmental impact. In conjunction with the QSAR tool (Quantitative Structure Activity Relationship) one can "draw up" a new compound and the tools will compare it to known toxicity data for similar structures, moieties, functional groups, etc. In this way, different options can be evaluated (or estimated) very early on in the product development process.

If an engineer is preparing to go to WAR with their environmental efforts, then the Waste Reduction Algorithm contains many process evaluation tools to help win the sustainability battle. PARIS or Program to Assist the Replacement of Industrial Solvents is a software package currently in restricted use at the agency (but soon to be released as free download, PARIS III) that can help an engineer in replacing a toxic solvent with one of lesser environmental impact. In simplified terms, the engineer inputs the properties of the existing solvent, and/or what functions the solvent must have, and the tool will evaluate options that fit those requirements and suggest the least toxic or environmentally unfriendly solvents that fit the bill. Finally, the EPA's GREENSCOPE (which is much less of a mouthful than Gauging Reaction Effectiveness for ENvironmental Sustainability of Chemistries with a multi-Objective Process Evaluator) is a gate-to-gate dashboard tool to bring a lot of the various evaluations together in one portfolio. Dr. Leazer concluded his talk with a discussion of several novel and productive technical partnerships between the EPA and industry to further the cause of sustainability and the environment. A few of these include working with paper mills to reduce methanol, SOx and NOx emissions and finding a productive and high-tech use for winery grape skin (must) wastes.

John Leazer, Ph.D is the Division Director of the EPA's Sustainability Technology Division. Prior to that, he worked for 22 years at Merck and was one of the founders of its Green Chemistry Program.

What tools help you work towards sustainability?