Sustainability & Environment
Enzymes represent one of the leading “Green Chemistry” technologies. The use of enzymes frequently results in many benefits that cannot be obtained with traditional chemical treatment. These often include higher product quality and lower manufacturing cost, and less waste and reduced energy consumption. More traditional chemical treatments are generally nonspecific, not always easily controlled, and may create harsh conditions. Often they produce undesirable side effects and/or waste disposal problems. The degree to which a desired technical effect is achieved by an enzyme can be controlled through various means, such as dose, temperature, and time. Because enzymes are catalysts, the amount added to accomplish a reaction is relatively small. For example, an enzyme preparation in most food uses is equal to 0.1% (or less) of the product. Enzymes used in food processing are generally destroyed during subsequent processing steps and not present in the final food product.
Industrial Enzymes and the Environment
Enzymes can often replace chemicals or processes that present safety or environmental issues. For example, enzymes can:
- Replace acids in the starch processing industry and alkalis or oxidizing agents in fabric desizing;
- Reduce the use of sulfide in tanneries;
- Replace pumice stones for “stonewashing” jeans;
- Allow for more complete digestion of animal feed leading to less animal waste; and
- Remove stains from fabrics. Clothes can be washed at lower temperatures, thus saving energy. Enzymes can be used instead of chlorine bleach for removing stains on cloth. The use of enzymes also allows the level of surfactants to be reduced and permits the cleaning of clothes in the absence of phosphates.
Enzymes also contribute to safer working conditions through elimination of chemical treatments during production processes. For example, in starch, paper and textile processing, less hazardous chemicals are required when enzymes are used.