Dr. Chandra Wahyu Purnomo, a lecturer in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the Faculty of Engineering, Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM), has been inaugurated as a full professor.
The inauguration occurred on Tuesday (October 10) at the UGM Central Building following his professorial lecture titled “Transformation of the Chemical Industry Towards Sustainable Material Utilization.”
In his presentation, Professor Purnomo stated that the chemical industry is a major supplier of raw materials for over 96 percent of manufactured products.
Furthermore, this industry contributes to climate crises, pollution, and plastic waste that threaten human health and environmental sustainability.
Starting in 2015, the growth in demand for basic chemicals like ethylene, propylene, methanol, benzene, paraxylene, and chlorine was 19.6 million metric tons per year, with an annual growth rate exceeding 3 percent.
The professor emphasized the need to avoid dependence on single raw materials, centralized infrastructure technology, and capital-intensive production to minimize technological dependencies and concentrated cumulative impacts.
The chemical industry’s future production should be distributed to allow the use of local and renewable raw materials.
“It is time for the chemical industry to significantly reduce the use of conventional materials such as petroleum as raw materials in chemical production while building supply chains from sustainable and renewable raw materials,” he said.
Professor Purnomo mentioned that producing organic chemicals and their derivatives consumes 450 million tons of carbon yearly, most of which still originates from petroleum. He proposed that the chemical industry should use renewable biomass materials.
“Using renewable biomass as raw materials to produce chemicals in a closed carbon cycle can significantly reduce carbon emissions from the industry,” he said.
According to Professor Purnomo, transitioning from a fossil-based chemical industry to a sustainable chemical industry requires a policy framework to encourage innovation, investment, and new technology development.
He argued that governments and international institutions should work together to develop regulations that facilitate changes such as the use of biomass, recycling, and other sustainable raw materials.
“Restrictions on hazardous chemicals and stricter monitoring of waste and emissions should also be implemented. Strict regulations can encourage the replacement of hazardous chemicals with safer alternatives,” Professor Purnomo emphasized.
He believes a social transformation approach will shape consumption and production patterns based on participation, togetherness, and solidarity. Bottom-up social innovation and emancipatory consumer movements in changing production and consumption systems are essential to creating more regional and participatory value.
Author: Gusti Grehenson