Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge
The Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge
The Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards promote the environmental and economic benefits of novel green chemistry. These prestigious annual awards recognize chemical technologies that incorporate green chemistry into chemical design, manufacture, and use.
EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention sponsors the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards in partnership with the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute® and other members of the chemical community.
This page contains information on definitions used for the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Program and the scope of the program.
Green chemistry is the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances. Green chemistry applies across the lifecycle of a chemical product, including its design, manufacture, use, and ultimate disposal. Green chemistry is also known as sustainable chemistry.
Green chemistry reduces pollution at its source by minimizing or eliminating the hazards of chemical feedstocks, reagents, solvents, and products. This is unlike treating pollution after it is formed (also called remediation), which involves end-of-the-pipe treatment or cleaning up of environmental spills and other releases. Remediation may include separating hazardous chemicals from other materials, then treating them so they are no longer hazardous or concentrating them for safe disposal. Most remediation activities do not involve green chemistry. Remediation removes hazardous materials from the environment; on the other hand, green chemistry keeps the hazardous materials out of the environment in the first place.
However, if a technology reduces or eliminates the hazardous chemicals used to clean up environmental contaminants, this technology would qualify as a green chemistry technology. One example is replacing a hazardous sorbent [chemical] used to capture mercury from the air for safe disposal with an effective, but nonhazardous sorbent. Using the nonhazardous sorbent means that the hazardous sorbent is never manufactured so the remediation technology meets the definition of green chemistry.
For the purposes of the program, EPA defines green chemistry as the use of chemistry for source reduction.
The term "source reduction" includes any practice which:
- (i) reduces the amount of any hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant entering any waste stream or otherwise released into the environment (including fugitive emissions) prior to recycling, treatment, or disposal; and
- (ii) reduces the hazards to public health and the environment associated with the release of such substances, pollutants, or contaminants.
- Includes: equipment or technology modifications, process or procedure modifications, reformulation or redesign of products, substitution of raw materials, and improvements in housekeeping, maintenance, training, or inventory control.
- Does not include: any practice which alters the physical, chemical, or biological characteristics or the volume of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant through a process or activity which itself is not integral to and necessary for the production of a product or providing a service.
- Prevents the formation of any hazardous substance in any chemical product or process. Source reduction is the highest tier of the risk management hierarchy as described in the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 (PPA).
- Is preferable to recycling, treatment, or disposal. Chemical technologies that include recycling, treatment, and disposal may be eligible for an award if they offer source reduction over traditional technologies for recycling, treatment, and disposal.
To be eligible for an award, a nominated technology must meet the scope of the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge program by meeting each of these six criteria:
- It must be a green chemistry technology with a significant chemistry component
- It must include source reduction
- It must be submitted by an eligible organization or its representative(s)
- It must have a significant milestone in its development within the past five years
- It must have a significant U.S. component
- It must fit within at least one of the three focus areas of the program
Green chemistry technologies are extremely diverse. As a group, they…
- Improve upon any chemical product or process by reducing negative impacts on human health and the environment relative to competing technologies
- Include all chemical processes: synthesis, catalysis, reaction conditions, separations, analysis, and monitoring
- Make improvements at any stage of a chemical’s lifecycle, for example, substituting a greener feedstock, reagent, catalyst, or solvent in an existing synthetic pathway
- May substitute a single improved product or an entire synthetic pathway
- Benefit human health and the environment at any point of the technology’s lifecycle: extraction, synthesis, use, and ultimate fate
- Incorporate green chemistry at the earliest design stages of a new product or process
- Employ a significant change in chemistry, although they may also incorporate green engineering practices
For this program, EPA defines green chemistry as the use of chemistry for source reduction. Chemical technologies that include recycling, treatment, or disposal may meet the scope of the program if they offer source reduction over competing technologies.
Companies (including academic institutions and other nonprofit organizations) and their representatives are eligible for Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards for outstanding or innovative source reduction technologies.
Public academic institutions, such as state and tribal universities and their representatives, are eligible for Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards for technologies that prevent, reduce, or eliminate air or water pollution or the adverse health effects of solid waste entering into the waste stream.
A green chemistry technology must have reached a significant milestone within the past five years. Some examples are: critical discovery made, results published, patent application submitted or approved, pilot plant constructed, relevant regulatory review (e.g., by EPA under TSCA or FIFRA; by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration under FFDCA) initiated or completed, and technology implemented or launched commercially.
A significant amount of the research, development, or other aspects of the technology must have occurred within the United States. If the only aspect of the technology within the Unites States is product sales, the technology may not meet the scope of the program.
See Focus Areas