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Pollution free chemicals?




Dear Pat, 

As a regular reader of C&EN, this one takes me by surprise.  I mean, I 
admit the editorial staff is not exactly a group of environmental gurus, 
but the idea that increased use of plants and plant products will 
eliminate all industrial pollution is pretty naive, even for them.  What 
about metals wastes (or are plastics going to eliminate all use of 
metals???), combustion products, and BOD/organic waste products?   I can 
see the C&EN crew missing the BOD/organic waste angle, and you could 
argue that  ultrafiltration could eliminate all BOD and organic wastes 
could be composted.  But I can't see them advocating an end to the metals 
industry or an end to all combustion.  How exactly would we power our 
cars in this mythical future?  Electricity from solar panels made 
completely from plant-based plastics, transported over plant-based 
conductive plastic wires?  Both technologically and culturally, I think 
we are way more than 25 years from that kind of world, and I have a hard 
time seeing the editors of C&EN predicting such a thing.  

As to the technological feasibility of plant based plastics and oils 
finding widespread industrial use, I'm sure huge advances could be made 
in the next 25 years, if R&D funding is directed that way.  Some already 
exist, but, like many other new technologies, they are more expensive and 
not very well known.   I think it is more a matter of getting past "Why 
should we develop and market these products?" than "How do we...?"

If you have it, I would like a reference to the particular 
article/editorial that Use Less Stuff is citing.

Diana Zinkl
Research Analyst

Tellus Institute
11 Arlington St.
Boston, MA 02116
tel: (617) 266-5400, fax: (617) 266-8303
dzinkl@tellus.org, http://www.tellus.org
(note change from 'tellus.com'.  '.com' is still usable)