Enzymes cut industrial emissions, resource use: New study

Comprehensive scientific review of existing studies shows enzyme technology is a promising means of moving towards cleaner industrial production.

7. December 2012
​Novozymes scientists have produced the first review of existing studies into the use of enzymatic solutions in various industries, confirming they provide significant savings on water, energy and raw materials, as compared to conventional processes.

The findings are published in the peer-reviewed, scientific Journal of Cleaner Production (read it here), in a paper by Kenthorai Raman Jegannathan and Per Henning Nielsen.

“Enzymes have a proven track record of improving efficiency of industrial processes by reducing energy, water and raw materials use, and cutting waste. This is the first time we review the environmental benefits of enzyme use in industry, and document the positive effects in more general terms,” says Per Henning Nielsen, Senior Manager at Novozymes.

Enzymes, not chemicals
The review documents the effect of enzyme use in industries such as textiles, leather, pulp and paper, food and beverages, animal feed and pharmaceuticals, among others.

It shows that enzymes, when used as an alternative to conventional processes, have helped reduce industries’ emissions and thereby contribution to global warming and acid rain, as well as their impact on agricultural land use, and pollution of aquatic resources.

“Using enzymes in industry is to use nature’s technology, and is a way to work smart,” says Per Henning Nielsen. “Industries are looking for low cost solutions, and we have a solution for them here: they can implement enzymes in their production process, save energy and meet targets for reducing their impact on climate change.”

Typically, small amounts of enzymes are used in industrial processes in a targeted way to speed up reactions and reduce the temperature at which processes take place, thereby saving water, energy and chemicals.

Cutting emissions
A key example is the textile industry, where the enzyme pectate lyase helps degrade pectin and remove wax from raw cotton, and enables the scouring process to take place at lower temperatures. This reduces the number of rinsing baths and resources needed, resulting in savings of 990 kg carbon dioxide (CO2) per ton of yarn.

Individual consumers can also see benefits of enzymatic solutions: In laundry detergents, enzymes such as protease, lipase and amylase improve stain removal even at low temperatures, thereby saving resources and 0.3 kg CO2 per 3 kg laundry.

In 2011, Novozymes’ customers saved 45 million tons CO2 by using the company’s enzymes, instead of conventional processes, in their production.