Efforts to preserve the environment—our air, water, land and climate—are made possible in large part thanks to the innovative products of chemistry. America’s chemical makers create products that help protect the environment and are committed to continuous environmental improvement in their own operations.
Cutting Greenhouse Gas Emissions
A groundbreaking study in 2009 by McKinsey & Company found that the products of chemistry save twice the greenhouse gas emissions than are emitted making the products. That ratio could rise to four times the savings by 2030—a remarkable environmental investment. Here are some examples of GHG savings (these ratios refer to emissions saved by employing the product versus emissions from creating the product):
- Plastic foam building insulation—233:1
- Diesel additives (improved fuel efficiency)—111:1
- Glass- and carbon-fiber composites for wind turbines—123:1
- Compact fluorescent lighting—20:1
- Engine efficiency—21:1
- Low-temperature (i.e., energy saving) detergents—9:1
- Plastics for light-weighting automobiles—3:1
Helping Keep the Environment Clean
Many environmental improvements are achieved due to the energy efficiency of innovative chemistry products; less energy used equals fewer energy-related emissions. The products of chemistry benefit the environment in many other ways:
- Lightweight plastic packaging allows more products to be shipped, lightening the load and producing fewer discards. After delivering the goods, many plastics can be recycled and become new packaging or long-lasting products such as plastic lumber.
- Absorbents, catalysts and plastic fibers in air filters for automobiles, homes and commercial buildings clean the air we breathe, and “scrubbers” at industrial facilities dramatically reduce noxious emissions to the environment and acid rain.
- Modern landfills are lined with industrial strength plastics to prevent toxic run off into sensitive waterways or drinking water sources.
- Disaster response relies on the products of chemistry, such as absorbents, plastic booms and skimmers after oil spills, as well as purified drinking water and disinfectants to stop the spread of disease after natural disasters.
- Chemistry produces fertilizers that nurture crops, new compounds that protect plants from proliferating pests and disease, water saving and delivery devices such as plastic sheeting and pipes—resulting in more food for more people.
Leading by Example:
- Since 1988, Responsible Care companies have reduced all hazardous air pollutant emissions by 75 percent, while the chemical industry overall increased production by 38 percent during the same period.
- Between 2008 and 2010, Responsible Care companies reduced SOx emissions by about 12 percent and reduced NOx emissions by about 23 percent.
Policies to Help Protect the Environment
America’s environmental policies must promote the shared national goal of a healthy environment while encouraging innovation and high-skilled, high-paying jobs in the business of chemistry here at home.
Americans must feel confident that the federal regulatory system is keeping pace with the applications of chemistry. Our nation’s primary chemicals management law must be updated to adapt to scientific advancements and to promote that chemical products are safe for intended use—while also encouraging innovation and protecting American jobs.
Learn more about policies that can help American chemistry continue innovating, creating jobs and enhancing safety.