We should see recycling as one approach of many, Klaus Kümmerer, University of Lüneburg, Germany, said in an interview with the GDCh membership magazine Nachrichten aus der Chemie. We should look into what is possible, what makes sense, and what disadvantages it entails. Substance and material flows should be homogenized and decreased to keep the entropic losses in the overall system as low as possible.
He sees one way in new business models. As an example from the healthcare industry, Kümmerer mentions disinfection in hospitals. According to the classical model, the producer of the disinfectant wants to sell as much of it as possible. However, the task is to maintain a defined standard of hygiene. So the best thing would be that the hospitals would not buy a certain number of liters of disinfectant per year, but a certain amount of disinfected surface.
Another example are drugs and personal care products. All molecules that can escape into the environment should be quickly and completely biodegradable. The German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ, Deutsches Krebsforschungsinstitut), Heidelberg, has modified the cytostatic ifosfamide few years ago. The researchers wanted to improve the absorption in the intestine, thus reducing the side effects. They have attached a sugar to the molecule and produced glufosfamide. It is now in clinical examination phase 3. Meanwhile Kümmerer’s group studied the degradation of this drug and found that the whole molecule is mineralized to CO2 and water.
Kümmerer sees this as a new way of developing drugs. Synthesis of biodegradable drugs should be encouraged by a better patent situation or other incentives. In the end, he thinks the drugs will not be bought because it is more environmentally friendly, but because it is better absorbed and has fewer side effects.