Vol. 4 No. 2 (2020)
Feature Articles

Early Industrial Roots of Green Chemistry - II : International “Pollution Prevention” Efforts During the 1970’s and 1980’s

Mark A Murphy

Published 2020-07-02


  • Green Chemistry,
  • Green Engineering,
  • History,
  • Pollution Prevention,
  • 3M Corporation,
  • Environmental Protection Agency,
  • American Chemical Society,
  • Economic Commission for Europe (ECE),
  • Non-Waste Technology,
  • 3M3P
  • ...More

How to Cite

Murphy, M. A. (2020). Early Industrial Roots of Green Chemistry - II : International “Pollution Prevention” Efforts During the 1970’s and 1980’s . Substantia, 4(2). https://doi.org/10.13128/Substantia-894


Many literature articles and/or conventional histories of “Green Chemistry” describe its start as being a result of actions at the US Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and/or in Academia during the 1990’s. But many examples of environmentally friendly Real-World chemical processes were invented, developed and commercialized in the oil refining, commodity chemical, and consumer product industries starting about the time of World War II.  Those efforts dramatically accelerated and evolved into explicitly environmentally oriented “Pollution Prevention” efforts during the 1970’s and 1980’s. A UN conference in November 1976 brought together over 150 attendees from industry, academia, and governmental and non-governmental organizations from 30 countries to address environmental issues related to preventing pollution caused by the chemically-related industries.  Seventy-nine papers published in 1978 from the conference proceedings (titled “Non-Waste Technology and Production”) addressed a wide variety of technical, economic, environmental, and policy issues and approaches, and documented many examples of already commercialized environmentally friendly chemically based processes.  On a parallel track, in 1975 the 3M Corporation initiated a major corporate-wide program called “Pollution Prevention Pays (“3P”) that commercialized thousands of environmentally oriented Real-World processes and/or inventions, in many countries, and simultaneously saved 3M large sums of money. Similar “Pollution Prevention” approaches were emulated and elaborated by many chemically based corporations in many countries during the 1980s. The “Green Chemistry” terminology adopted by the EPA and Academia in the 1990’s evolved from the “Pollution Prevention” approaches, programs, and commercialized inventions that had occurred long before the 1990s.