Firmenich’s biodegradation research is changing the way we design new ingredients for the future. All new Firmenich fragrance ingredients are tested for biodegradation. Beyond regulatory requirements, we proactively subject all compounds with the potential to go to market to the same tests. We are committed to creating only biodegradable ingredients as part of our Green Gate strategy.
Biodegradation is the process by which living organisms break down carbon-based substances to inorganic end products like water or carbon dioxide and biomass. It can occur in the presence (aerobic biodegradation) or absence (anaerobic biodegradation) of oxygen and can take days, weeks, years or centuries.
To test biodegradability, Firmenich uses established guidelines, such as Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) 301 and 302 tests, for each new ingredient. When ingredients successfully break down to inorganic end products, they can be described as “readily”, “inherently” or “ultimately biodegradable”, depending on how long the process takes.
Many of our ingredient structures are inspired by natural compounds. While these can contain very complex structural features, their biodegradability often fares better than compounds from other industries that might exhibit similar complexity, but lack natural counterparts for design.
Information on the biodegradation of chemical products is a fundamental component of environmental regulations worldwide. Firmenich recognized early on that building substantial in-house expertise on biodegradation was important. We assembled a team of highly recognized scientists in R&D and Corporate Compliance who fully embrace our path to biodegradable ingredients. Firmenich’s biodegradation laboratories are integrated in the R&D Division, allowing direct scientific support in state-of-the-art environmental microbiology and biochemistry, as well as access to analytical innovation and organic synthesis labs.
In FY16, we finalized what we believe to be the largest biodegradation test database for fragrances, enabling development of comprehensive models to assist in the design of future biodegradable ingredients. Our scientists work to improve in-silico models for biodegradability prediction. By challenging existing tools and methods and proposing modifications, our scientists have gained recognition and published their findings in research papers. Since 2013, we have published more than six articles in five peer-reviewed scientific journals on this topic alone
Where our raw materials are derived from synthetic processes, the use of green chemistry principles is an essential part of our process-development activities. We continue to invest in areas such as catalytic chemistry, both organo- and metalo-, in order to devise cleaner processes. To better manage our overall environmental impacts, we are developing a new metrics system to help our synthetic chemists make further improvements. Firmenich is dedicated to developing processes based on the “Principles of Green Chemistry”.
1. Prevention -- It is better to prevent waste than to treat or clean up waste afterwards.
2. Atom Economy -- Design synthetic methods to maximize the incorporation of all materials used in the process into the final product.
3. Less Hazardous Chemical Syntheses -- Design synthetic methods to use and generate substances that minimize toxicity to human health and the environment.
4. Designing Safer Chemicals -- Design chemical products to affect their desired function while minimizing their toxicity.
5. Safer Solvents and Auxiliaries -- Minimize the use of auxiliary substances wherever possible to make them innocuous when used.
6. Design for Energy Efficiency -- Minimize the energy requirements of chemical processes and conduct synthetic methods at ambient temperature and pressure if possible.
7. Use of Renewable Feedstock -- Use renewable raw material or feedstock rather whenever practicable.
8. Reduce Derivatives -- Minimize or avoid unnecessary derivatization if possible, which requires additional reagents and generates waste.
9. Catalysis -- Catalytic reagents are superior to stoichiometric reagents.
10. Design for Degradation -- Design chemical products so they break down into innocuous products that do not persist in the environment.
11. Real-time Analysis for Pollution Prevention -- Develop analytical methodologies needed to allow for real-time, in-process monitoring and control prior to the formation of hazardous substances.
12. Inherently Safer Chemistry for Accident Prevention -- Choose substances and the form of a substance used in a chemical process to minimize the potential for chemical accidents, including releases, explosions, and fires.
White biotechnology uses enzymatic or fermentation processes to make ingredients, as an alternative to chemical synthesis. This process allows us to make ingredients from renewable natural materials, such as CO2, glucose or fat, rather than petroleum. In 2014, after more than 10 years of research, we launched CLEARWOOD®, a white biotechnology fragrance ingredient. In 2016, less than two years after its release, CLEARWOOD® won the Innovation Award from the Soap, Perfume, Cosmetic and Detergent Experts Association (SEPAWA), one of our industry’s largest and most prestigious associations in Europe.
REACH (EC 1907/2006) is the EU regulation established in 2002 to help minimize the adverse effects of chemical production on the environment and on human health. Firmenich embraced this challenge early on and aims to automatically supply REACH-compliant chemicals and fragrances to our customers.
At Firmenich, our scientific foundation drives innovation to improve product sustainability. A safer, more sustainable environment requires less toxic and persistent materials and safer ways to produce and deliver new ingredients. It also requires information and methods to make wise and timely decisions about chemicals. Firmenich scientists work closely with customers, competitors and academic groups to develop transparent methodologies, tools and strategies for product safety in the company and the industry.