Scale Up of the Ceres NanoTrapⓇ Particle Production Process; Understanding and Achieving Environmental Justice Through Social Construction.

Fernandes, Justin, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Anderson, Eric, EN-Chem Engr Dept, University of Virginia
Baritaud, Catherine, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

Waste and pollution are intrinsic parts of industrial production. In order to unlock the wealth generation from industry, some amount of pollution and waste must be produced. Since pollution has measurable negative effects on human and environmental health, pollution must be prudently managed and mitigated. This creates a need to engineer pollution and waste sources and inspires this technical and social project. The technical project, a partnered project with Ceres Nanosciences, uses chemical engineering to mitigate the waste from a polymer nanoparticle production process. The social project analyzes the socioeconomic factors which underpin environmental racism and offers strategies to promote environmental justice. Together these projects represent the comprehensive response needed to prevent human health damage from pollution, technical, engineered mitigation of waste with equitable and sustainable management of pollution.

Ceres Nanosciences is a biotech company which produces polymer nanoparticles which are able to concentrate biological analytes like virus particles, proteins, and cell life out of complex organic samples like wastewater or blood. These particles are useful for facilitating biological research and study so production is increasing to meet growing demand. The production process for these products produces a significant amount of waste primarily in the form of wastewater contaminated with trace amounts of hazardous chemicals. The waste from the process consumes water resources and threatens to pollute the local environment if not properly managed.

By redesigning the chemical washing process and proposing reagent recycling schemes, the waste volume produced by the nanoparticle production process was projected to be reduced by 40-60%. Furthermore, cost savings up to $100,000 per year were projected from the proposed changes. Activated carbon waste disposal did not reduce the amount of waste produced but was found to offer a cost-effective manner for disposing of waste water. Through the application of chemical engineering concepts and design, proper stewardship of waste can be achieved.

In the United States, minority and impoverished communities are exposed to a disproportionate amount of toxic waste and pollution. This phenomenon, referred to as environmental racism, has resulted in measurable and direct impacts on the health of these communities. Despite being understood since the 1980s, little progress in abating environmental racism and promoting environmental justice has been achieved. This requires a fundamental reexamination of these phenomena to construct socio-political strategies for promoting justice. By analyzing the social construction of industrialization in the United States, it was determined that environmental justice must be built upon mass social power built from material arguments regarding the human benefits of environmental justice.

Organizing for environmental justice through mass social power in the United States means activating a motivated and informed electorate to push for policy which builds justice. Material arguments which appeal to the majority of the working-class population through economic investment and stimulation are determined to be the most effective organizing principal. This organization structure is best exemplified by the Green New Deal in its combined environmental and economic policies.

While pollution and waste are unavoidable in an industrial society, through prudent engineering and equitable socioeconomic ordering, the negative consequences of pollution can be managed.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Waste Management, Social Construction of Technology, Environmental Racism, Environmental Justice, Social Power
Sponsoring Agency:
Ceres Nanosciences Inc.

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering
Technical Advisor: Justin Fernandes
STS Advisor: Catherine Baritaud
Technical Team Members: James Mullin, Peter Miedaner, Kathryn Smith, Amy Wang

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