Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 11, Issue 5, pp 284–290 | Cite as

Principles and perspectives

  • Klaus Günter Steinhäuser
  • Steffi Richter
  • Petra Greiner
  • Jutta Penning
  • Michael Angrick
Sustainable Chemistry


Background, Aim and Scope

With respect to the enormous increase of chemical production in the last decades and the tens of thousands of individual chemicals on the market, the permanent improvement of chemical management is a permanent target to achieve the goals of sustainable consumption and production set by the WSSD in Johannesburg 2002.

Main Features

Several approaches exist to describe sustainability of chemistry. However, commonly agreed criteria are still missing. There is no doubt that products of modern chemistry help to achieve important goals of sustainability and that significant improvements have occurred regarding direct releases from production sites, but several facts demonstrate that chemistry is far from being sustainable. Still too many chemicals exhibit hazardous characteristics and pose a risk to health and environment. Too many resources are needed to produce chemicals and finished products.

Results and Conclusion

Therefore, a strategy for sustainability of chemistry should be developed which comprises the following main elements:
  1. 1.

    Sustainable chemicals: sustainable chemical management includes a regulatory framework which makes no difference between new and existing chemicals, contains efficient information flow through the supply chain which allows users to handle chemicals safely and offers an authorisation procedure and/or an efficient restriction procedure for substances of high concern. This regulatory scheme should promote the development of inherently safe chemicals.

  2. 2.

    Sustainable chemical production: Sustainable chemical production needs the development and implementation of emerging alternative techniques like selective catalysis, biotechnology in order to release less CO, and less toxic by-products, to save energy and to achieve higher yields. Information exchange on best available techniques (BAT) and best environmental practices (BEP) may help to promote changes towards more sustainability.

  3. 3.

    Sustainable products: An integrated product policy which provides a framework for sustainable products promotes the development of products with a long-term use phase, low resource demand in production and use, low emission of hazardous substances and properties suitable for reuse and recycling. This may be promoted by eco-labelling, chemical leasing concepts and extended information measures to enhance the demand of consumers and various actors in the supply chain for sustainable products.


Recommendation and Perspective

Important tools for the promotion of sustainable chemistry are the abolition of barriers for innovation in legislation and within the chemical industry, more transparency for all users of chemical products, a new focus on sustainability in education and research, and a new way of thinking in terms of sustainability.


Chemicals chemical production product policy sustainable chemistry 


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Copyright information

© Ecomed Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Klaus Günter Steinhäuser
    • 1
  • Steffi Richter
    • 1
  • Petra Greiner
    • 1
  • Jutta Penning
    • 1
  • Michael Angrick
    • 1
  1. 1.Federal Environmental Agency (Umweltbundesamt-UBA)Berlin

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