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22 July 2022
Chemistry Business Boom Bad for the Earth
Projections indicate that the global chemistry business will boom and more than double in the next decade – but that’s good and bad.
Good, because it will obviously boost the economy and create more jobs and opportunities for the sector. But bad, because the planet will not cope, according to Professor Javier Garcia Martinez, President of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC).
Prof Martinez, from the University of Alicante in Spain, visited Cape Town this week to attend the 26th IUPAC International Conference on Chemistry education. He visited the University of the Western Cape (UWC) campus to engage with staff and students on Thursday, 21 July 2022 as part of his visit to the four universities in the Western Cape.
“This growth is fantastic news, it's good for us. But it’s bad news for the planet because many of the waste we produce will be on this planet for thousands of years,” he explained.
“We cannot keep producing these emissions at the same levels we do. This industry needs to grow, but at the same time the emissions have to be reduced. The challenge is to stop economic growth from impacting negatively on the planet by reducing the amount of waste to be cleaner. That is what technology and that is what chemistry can do.”

According to Prof Martinez, scientists were able to produce vaccines for COVID-19 in a few months after the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020 because they were already working on technology to do so.
Prof Martinez in conversation with ​​​​Prof Mike Davies-
Coleman, former Dean of Natural Sciences at UWC

He made an example of how the chemistry sector can make solar fuels that come from carbon dioxide instead of oil. 

“It is all about how to make a sustainable future. For example, where I come from, we are suffering from heat waves with wildfires from Portugal to Greece. We need to figure out how chemistry can help.”
Prof Martinez added that his visit to local institutions assisted IUPAC to better understand ways for the South African chemistry community to create international networks that would ensure that best practices apply everywhere through the sharing of resources and exchange programmes, among other things.
The week-long IUPAC conference discussed best practice to teach and learn chemistry and inspire more young people to join the field.

For more images of Prof Martinez's visit to UWC (all by Ruvan Boshoff/UWC Media), see the Gallery below: