Novozymes A/S received the prestigious Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award 2001 at a ceremony held today in Washington, DC, the company announced. The Award was presented by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which hailed Novozymes as a technical innovator in the field of green chemistry.
Novozymes was recognized for designing an enzymatic process for treating cotton textiles that provides an economical and environmentally friendly alternative to the chemical-based products commonly used in the textile industry. The award-winning process called BioPreparation™ reduces environmental impact, saving both energy and water without damaging cotton fibers.
The dirty side of clean cotton
One of the most negative environment impacts from textile production is the traditional process used to prepare cotton fiber, yarn and fabric. Before cotton yarn or fabric can be dyed, it goes through a number of processes in a textile mill. One important step is scouring - the complete or partial removal of the non-cellulosic components found in native cotton as well as impurities such as machinery and size lubricants.
Traditionally this is achieved through a series of chemical treatments and subsequent rinsing in water. This treatment generates large amounts of salts, acids and alkali and requires huge amounts of water.
The green alternative
With BioPreparation™ using the enzyme BioPrep™ 3000 L, the cotton fibers can be treated under very mild conditions. The environmental impact is reduced since there is less chemical waste and a lower volume of water is needed for the procedure.
The BioPreparation™ process decreases both effluent load and water usage to the e
xtent that the new technology becomes an economically viable alternative. Instead of using hot sodium hydroxide to remove the impurities and damaging parts of the fiber, enzymes do the same job leaving the cotton fiber intact.
A rough estimate of the worldwide environmental impact of switching to BioPreparation™ underlines the reasons why the product has been honored by this year’s Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award. Because BioPreparation™ uses fewer chemicals and rinsing steps than required during a traditional scour, textile mills may cut water consumption by as much as 30-50%.
A recent statistical survey determined that 162 knitting mills used 89 million cubic meters of water a year in processing goods from scouring to finishing; the BioPreparation™ approach would save between 27 and 45 million cubic meters of this water. In addition, field trials have established that the environmental loads are decreased by up to 40%, when compared to conventional sodium hydroxide treatments.
Furthermore, cost savings of 30% or more per mill can be realized.
"We are very proud of this award. It serves as recognition of our enzyme technology as a sustainable solution to industrial problems," said Novozymes CEO Steen Riisgaard at the award ceremony.
This is not the first time that the US government has recognized Novozymes’ efforts to create a better balance between human consumption and nature. Earlier this year, the US government awarded funding of up to $14.8 million to an ambitious Novozymes project aimed at producing bio-ethanol fuel from biomass.
Former President Bill Clinton established The Pres
idential Green Chemistry Challenge Award in 1995. The award reflects an outstanding achievement in utilizing green chemistry as a viable alternative in commercial applications. It recognizes fundamental breakthroughs in chemistry which prevent pollution through environmentally conscious design of chemical processes and products.
|Eva Louise Holm Pedersen
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