Biotecnologia para la sustentabilidad industrial

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KoreanZ Chem. Eng., 18(2), 137-148 (2001)


Biotechnology for Industrial Sustainability
Alan T. Bull Research School of Biosciences, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NJ, United Kingdom

Abslract-Until recently waste production was seen as an inevitable outcome of industrial production and processfllg, and a problem that could be managed by end-of-pipe and in situbiotre~nent, disposal, or simply be ignored. However the introduction of dean, or cleaner, technology options now is focussing attention on the mJnimisation of naaterials and enelgy use, mid waste geIleration, and upon recycle. Thus clean technology has emerged as a concept that is compatible with industrial sustailrability, and whose enviroiane~ltal benefits and economic competitiveness havebeen demonstrable over a range of industrial sectors. Biotechilology is an enabling techilology that offers one important route to clean products and processes; it provides powerful and versatile tools that can compete with chemical and physical means of reducing both nlaterial and energy consmnption, and the genei~ation of wastes and emissions. The wide penetration of bioteclmology in industry hasstill to occur but many examples of its ability to ddiver dean and competitive products and processes are now available particularly through the development and application of biocatalysts. The introduction of clean or demler processing does not necessarily entail a complete change in manufacturing strategy or the refitting of plant. Upgrading existing nlanufacturing processes by fittingbiotechilology unit stages illustrates the opportulfities for such intermediate technology. Nevertheless, for biotechilology to achieve its full potential as a basis for clean industrial products and processes beyond its cmrent applications, innovative R&D will be needed. The successful application of biotcehilology as a dean technology is illustrated in tiffs review ttu-ough a series of case studies,while the innovative natta-e of biotectmology in tiffs context is demonstrated by the development and application of novel biocatalysts. Key words: Biotechnology, Sustamability, Clean Technology, Biocatalysts, Industrial Processing, Life Cycle Assessment INTRODUCTION Human activities in the form of industrialisation, mhanisation, agriculture, forestry, ftshing, and minecal extraction, andaccompanied by the move towards globalisation of the world economy and the intemationalisation of production, has led to an accelerathag pace of environmental degradation. The environmental crisis as viewed by Callicott [1994] was ~176 in the industrial West in the 1960s, plastered over with regulative legislation in the 1970s, then forgotten only to return with a vengeance in the 1980s .... now the focusof environmental concern is holistic and systematic, centeritag on the integrity of the planetaiy ecosystem .... it ks so pervasive that it cannot be ignored". Thus the growing awareness of the need to promote sustainable development has focussed attention on the need to fl-nprove resource management and to reduce waste and pollution generation. While sustainable development is a tem~ open tovarious interpretations (the definition most usually invoked is Bi~ldtland's: strategies and actions that have the objective of meeting the needs and aspirations of the presei~: without compromising the ability to meet those of the future; Bmndtland, 1987) neveitlaeless it conveys a lmsic environmer~al ethic that has wide public support. Thus sustainable development should provide a fi'mnework forintegrating environmental policies and developing technological strategies. This review is concerned with issues relating to sustainable industrial development and the need that this imposes for continuous innovation, improvement, and the introduction of clean technologies in order to *To whol-n correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: 137

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