Nav: Home

Disposed PPE could be turned into biofuel, shows new COVID-19 study

August 03, 2020

Plastic from used personal protective equipment (PPE) can, and should, be transformed into renewable liquid fuels - according to a new study, published in the peer-reviewed Taylor & Francis journal .

Experts from The University of Petroleum and Energy Studies have suggested a strategy that could help to mitigate the problem of dumped PPE - currently being disposed of at unprecedented levels due to the current COVID-19 pandemic - becoming a significant threat to the environment.

Out today, the research show how billions of items of disposable PPE can be converted from its polypropylene (plastic) state into biofuels - which is known to be at par with standard fossil fuels.

Lead author Dr Sapna Jain explains that the transformation into biocrude, a type of synthetic fuel, "will not just prevent the severe after-effects to humankind and the environment but also produce a source of energy".

"Presently, the world is focusing to combat COVID-19, however, we can foresee the issues of economic crisis and ecological imbalance also," she explains.

"We have to prepare ourselves to meet the challenges which are forcefully imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, so as to maintain sustainability.

"There is a high production and utilization of PPE to protect the community of health workers and other frontline workers of COVID-19. The disposal of PPE is a concern owing to its material i.e. non-woven polypropylene.

"The proposed strategy is a suggestive measure addressing the anticipated problem of disposal of PPE."

During the current COVID-19 pandemic specifically, PPE is being designed for single use followed by disposal. Once these plastic materials are discharged into the environment they end up in landfill or oceans, as their natural degradation is difficult at ambient temperature. They need decades to decompose. Recycling these polymers requires both physical methods and chemical methods. Reduction, reuse and recycling are the three pillars of sustainable development that can help to prevent the disposal of plastic to the environment.

The research team reviewed many related research articles as they looked to explore the current policies around PPE disposal, the polypropylene content in PPE, and the feasibility of converting PPE into biofuel.

In particular, they focused on the structure of polypropylene, its suitability for PPE, why it poses an environmental threat and methods of recycling this polymer.

Their conclusive findings call for the PPE waste to be converted into fuel using pyrolysis. This a chemical process for breaking down plastic at high temperature - between 300-400 degree centigrade for an hour - without oxygen.

Co-author Dr Bhawna Yadav Lamba says this process is among the most promising and sustainable methods of recycling compared with incineration and landfill.

"Pyrolysis is the most commonly used chemical method whose benefits include the ability to produce high quantities of bio-oil which is easily biodegradable," she states.

"There is always a need for alternative fuels or energy resources to meet our energy demands. The pyrolysis of plastics is one of the methods to mitigate our energy crisis."

She concludes: "The challenges of PPE waste management and increasing energy demand could be addressed simultaneously by the production of liquid fuel from PPE kits. The liquid fuel produced from plastics is clean and have fuel properties similar to fossil fuels."
-end-


Taylor & Francis Group

Related Plastic Articles:

There is at least 10 times more plastic in the Atlantic than previously thought
Scientists measured 12-21 million tonnes of three of the most common types of plastic in the top 200 metres of the Atlantic.
Seafood study finds plastic in all samples
A study of five different seafoods has found traces of plastic in every sample tested.
A world drowning in plastic pollution
Almost one billion tonnes of plastic will be dumped on land and in the oceans over the period from 2016 to 2040 unless the world acts, say a team of 17 global experts who have developed a computer model to track the stocks and flows of plastic around the world.
A radar for plastic: High-resolution map of 1 kilometre grids to track plastic emissions in seas
Plastic waste often ends up in river bodies and oceans, posing a serious threat to the marine ecosystem.
Sustainable structural material for plastic substitute
A team lead by Prof. Shu-Hong Yu from the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) report a high-performance sustainable structural material called cellulose nanofiber plate (CNFP) which is constructed from bio-based CNF and ready to replace the plastic in many fields.
Plastic pollution reaching the Antarctic
Food wrapping, fishing gear and plastic waste continue to reach the Antarctic.
'Triangle 2' plastic containers may see environmental makeover
Cornell chemists can demonstrate how to make high-density polyethylene with better control over polymer chain lengths, which allows for improvement over physical properties such as processability and strength, according to research published Dec.
Plastic from wood
The biopolymer lignin is a by-product of papermaking and a promising raw material for manufacturing sustainable plastic materials.
Turning plastic trash into treasure
Researchers have developed a new catalyst that can cleave plastic's strong carbon-carbon, converting it into higher value products.
Rethinking the science of plastic recycling
A multi-institutional collaboration reports a catalytic method for selectively converting discarded plastics into higher quality products.

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Debbie Millman: Designing Our Lives
From prehistoric cave art to today's social media feeds, to design is to be human. This hour, designer Debbie Millman guides us through a world made and remade–and helps us design our own paths.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#574 State of the Heart
This week we focus on heart disease, heart failure, what blood pressure is and why it's bad when it's high. Host Rachelle Saunders talks with physician, clinical researcher, and writer Haider Warraich about his book "State of the Heart: Exploring the History, Science, and Future of Cardiac Disease" and the ails of our hearts.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Insomnia Line
Coronasomnia is a not-so-surprising side-effect of the global pandemic. More and more of us are having trouble falling asleep. We wanted to find a way to get inside that nighttime world, to see why people are awake and what they are thinking about. So what'd Radiolab decide to do?  Open up the phone lines and talk to you. We created an insomnia hotline and on this week's experimental episode, we stayed up all night, taking hundreds of calls, spilling secrets, and at long last, watching the sunrise peek through.   This episode was produced by Lulu Miller with Rachael Cusick, Tracie Hunte, Tobin Low, Sarah Qari, Molly Webster, Pat Walters, Shima Oliaee, and Jonny Moens. Want more Radiolab in your life? Sign up for our newsletter! We share our latest favorites: articles, tv shows, funny Youtube videos, chocolate chip cookie recipes, and more. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.