Hey, did you consider the impact of waste disposal as part of the cost of your API synthesis ?

Hi Everyone, I want to thank Chemjobber for the renewed interest in an article I posted a while back.  The posting was about selecting solvents, my post was “Which solvent should I choose ?”, referring to an article that was  published by some colleagues at GSK, Green Chem., 2011,13, 854-862, DOI: 10.1039/c0gc00918k.  I have an article that is somewhat related to picking solvents in my current grab-bag of chemical literature.

I have to admit that it never crossed my mind to figure out how I was going to dispose of the chemical waste my reactions were generating.  Health & Safety comes by and disposed of my chemical waste.  I think that there is a movement to introduce some self-consciousness in the chemistry we are using and part of this responsibility is to consider what impact we have on the environment (did I dare say that ?)   The paper that I found, is by far, the most in-depth (and I am sure you could go deeper) analysis of life-cycle assessment of the solvent you are using from cradle-to-grave so to speak.  The paper in Green Chemistry is entitled “Guidelines based on life cycle assessment for solvent selection during the process design and evaluation of treatment alternatives”, by A. Amelio et al, Green Chem., 2014,16, 3045-3063, doi: 10.1039/c3gc42513d.

I found out there is a program for calculating the life cycle assessment of the solvents you are using.  In fact, there are quite a few theoretical models to determine how much you are polluting (just kidding, sort of).  We all have to determine what impact industry has on the environment.  I don’t think I will go into all the models or explanation that comes with this.  What I can say is this program will help you determine if you should recycle the solvent you are using or incinerate it.

The free program ( and I haven’t tried it, but might, for kicks) is available at http://www.sust-chem.ethz.ch/tools/ecosolvent.  The important takeaways from this paper were that with low-impact solvents (those that hold little environmental impact) could be incinerated,   The high-impact solvents (I knew I shouldn’t have used dichloromethane) should be distilled, so that you reduce the production by recovering it.  There are a bunch of tables for you to determine what you should do with your solvents even when you have a binary mixture.

Warning:  This is a pretty deep article.  Might need to read it multiple times.  It will be a while before I try writing about something like this again.  Have a great weekend.


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