Opportunities and obstacles for a green chemical industry in Sweden

This report summarises the results of a set of initiatives taken to identify opportunities and obstacles for the vision to enable a safe, green and sustainable chemical industry, and ultimately reduce the exposure of humans and ecosystems to hazardous chemicals. It represents a mid-term result in the Swedish research programme Mistra SafeChem’s work to present vision and agenda for green chemistry in Sweden. The target group for this report is internal (Mistra SafeChem programme partners) as well as external for all parties interested in the transition to a safe, green and sustainable chemistry.  

The report is based on the results of several activities/components: an overview of existing concepts for “Green Chemistry”, industry initiatives and the EU Chemical Strategy for Sustainability; a previously published mapping of the Swedish chemical industry; a compilation and analysis of data on import, production and use of selected chemical groups from the Swedish products register and the results of interviews with representatives of chemical industries in Sweden are summarised. 

Based on the results of these activities a number of obstacles and opportunities have been formulated along with general conclusions and recommendations for the enabling of the transition to a safe, green and sustainable chemistry. The main conclusions can be summarised as: 

The EU Chemical strategy for sustainability and associated industry initiatives as well as current and planned research initiatives provide a strong framework for coordinated action towards a vision of safe, sustainable and green chemistry. 

Chemical value chains are complex, international/global and include all societal sectors. Mapping chemical production and use with the purpose of analysing risks and prioritising areas for action/development is thus difficult and involves many actors. The chemical industry is also a heterogenous group of companies with activities ranging from small scale production of e.g. speciality chemicals and pharmaceuticals to large-scale production of base chemicals for a variety of applications and value chains. Different parts of the chemical industry also have widely differing conditions in terms of markets and market competition, industrial infrastructure, financial strength which all affect the possibility for change and introduction of new green and sustainable production methods and products. 

Research, innovation and investments are central to the future development. Specific challenges are the needs for reliable and low-cost tools for assessment of chemical hazards of both new chemicals and existing chemicals in new materials and applications, and for assessing hazards and risks of chemicals and materials in a life cycle perspective. This is also important in relation to the development of methods to operationalize the Safe and Sustainable by Design concept. Other challenges are the development of innovative production processes, chemicals and materials which fulfil criteria of safety and sustainability and contribute to societal needs including abatement of climate change. 

Subscribe to our newsletter