Green Manufacturing in the Virginia Chemicals Industry

The chemicals industry in Virginia is as dynamic as it is diverse. Companies are buzzing with activity, crafting everything from the chemicals that power our labs to the specialty concoctions that solve niche problems. And as we all strive to be kinder to our planet, these companies are getting on board, turning to green chemistry to make a big change with a smaller footprint.

A whopping 91% of business leaders from a global Oracle survey are throwing their weight behind sustainability projects. That’s a huge deal. It shows just how much everyone is recognizing the need to shift gears and adopt eco-friendlier ways.


In fact, in 2021, manufacturing was named the third biggest source of greenhouse gases in the U.S., churning out 23% of all direct emissions. And in 2018? It hogged 74% of all the energy used by the industrial sector. That’s why there’s a growing push, particularly within Virginia’s chemical manufacturing scene, to step up to the plate for green manufacturing.

In this blog, we cover:

  • Why sustainable manufacturing matters in the chemical industry
  • Breaking dependency on petroleum and natural gasses
  • Biomass feedstock
  • Top 3 Virginia leaders in the chemical industry

Why sustainable manufacturing matters today

Sustainable manufacturing stands at the crossroads of sustainability, economic growth, and social responsibility. It’s not just about making production greener; it’s a holistic approach that seeks to reconcile the often competing demands of environmental care, cost-effectiveness, and meeting societal needs. Manufacturers, engineers, and business leaders face the challenging task of:

  • Weighing organizational requirements against expenses, investor expectations, and consumer desires.
  • Evaluating which green practices yield the best balance of risk and reward.
  • Identifying initiatives that can make a substantial difference in achieving sustainability targets without sacrificing profitability.

Support from federal and global programs helps sustainable manufacturing efforts worldwide. In the U.S., initiatives like the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Advanced Energy Manufacturing and Recycling Grant Program by the Department of Energy encourage businesses to adopt sustainable methods. 

A member of MEP, GENEDGE offers a unique manufacturer’s Alliance for productivity and innovation. It combines manufacturing consulting services, online and in-person training and professional development, seven popular programs for small manufacturers like their supply chain connector program, and other tools to innovate, compete, and grow.

Globally, similar support structures such as the European Fund for Sustainable Development Plus (EFSD+) and the Asian Clean Energy Fund pave the way for eco-friendly manufacturing practices.

The move towards sustainability is driven by the need to stay competitive amidst shifting environmental regulations, consumer preferences for green products, and investors’ focus on eco-initiatives. This transition meets external pressures and serves as a strategic move to reduce operational costs, minimize waste, and use resources more efficiently. As the world leans into net-zero objectives and tighter ecological regulations, adopting sustainable manufacturing practices has become imperative for businesses to thrive in the 21st century.

female engineer works in a chemical plant using a laptop computer

Breaking the Dependency on Petroleum and Natural Gas through Green Chemistry

The chemical industry’s heavy reliance on petroleum and natural gas for feedstock presents a large hurdle in the push for sustainability. These fossil fuels, responsible for approximately 79% of production costs, are finite and major contributors to environmental degradation through CO2 emissions and other pollutants.

Biomass feedstock is the top green chemistry practice right now.

Switching to biomass feedstocks is a game-changer for the chemical industry’s sustainability goals. These renewable resources—like farm waste, forestry leftovers, and algae—offer a greener alternative to the fossil fuels that currently dominate raw material sources. This shift can significantly cut the industry’s carbon emissions and tap into the endlessly renewable nature of biomass. Leading the way, companies such as Cargill are innovating with biomass to produce eco-friendly products like plasticizers and fertilizers.

The potential of biomass goes beyond its green credentials. A Princeton study showed that converting biomass into common chemicals could slash carbon emissions by up to 94% for nearly all tested chemicals. Yet, looking at the whole picture is vital, including how biomass is grown, processed, and transported. Understanding biomass entirely can unveil its true benefits, pushing the industry toward lesser reliance on non-renewables and closer to sustainable practices. Other green chemistry practices include bioplastics, battery materials, and sustainable packaging materials.

group of workers in the logistics industry work in a warehouse with chemicals

Virginia’s Leading Chemical Manufacturers:

FUJIFILM Wako Chemicals USA

  • Specializes in laboratory chemicals and specialty chemicals.
  • Known for expertise in polymerization initiators, electronic materials, and custom manufacturing.

GENEDGE Partner DanChem (now named Ascent Industries Co.)

  • Custom manufacturer of specialty chemical products.
  • Provides capacity and technical support to major companies on a national and global scale. See GENEDGE’s other Southside clients here.

American Borate Company, L.L.C.

  • Supplier of Turkish borate in North America.
  • Offers boron products for various applications, including adhesives, agriculture, ceramics, and more.

What does the future look like?

The future of sustainable green manufacturing shines with promise as industries lean more into eco-awareness and efficient resource use.

  • Key trends include shifting towards a circular economy, extending product life cycles through design, reuse, and recycling, and minimizing waste.
  • There will be a push for cutting-edge processes that allow for smarter material use, reduced waste, and less energy use.
  • The exploration of new, eco-friendly materials is also on the horizon, spurred by technological advancements.
  • The integration of renewable energy will become crucial for cleaner manufacturing, alongside efforts to make supply chains more transparent and responsible.
  • Finally, increased collaboration across various sectors will drive innovation, sharing of best practices, and sustainable solutions to today’s environmental challenges.

Want to partner with Virginia’s best public resource for manufacturing consultancy services? GENEDGE provides streamlined sustainability assessments tailored for Virginia’s chemical companies, focusing on refining operations, supply chain efficiency, and energy use. Reach out for a free assessment today.

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