Disposed PPE could be transformed into biofuel, says Indian researchers
- Post By : Kumar Jeetendra
- Source: PTI
- Date: 04 Aug,2020
Indian scientists have suggested a method to convert the plastic used in personal protective equipment (PPE) into renewable liquid fuels, an advance that could help mitigate the problem of dumped PPE, now being disposed of unprecedented levels because of this COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the study, published in the journal Biofuels, billions of items of disposable PPE could be converted from its plastic state into biofuels using a high-temperature chemical process called pyrolysis.
Sapna Jain, lead author of the research in The University of Petroleum and Energy Research in Dehradun, Uttarakhand, noted in a statement that the transformation into biocrude — a kind of artificial gas –“does not just prevent the severe after-effects to humankind and the environment but also produce a source of energy”.
“Currently, the world is focusing to fight COVID-19, however, we could foresee the issues of economic crisis and ecological imbalance too. We have to prepare ourselves to meet the challenges that are forcefully imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, so as to maintain sustainability,” Jain said.
She explained that the disposal of PPE is a concern owing to its own material — non-woven polypropylene (plastic) — adding these are being designed for sole use followed by disposal.
According to the researchers, when these plastic materials are discharged to the environment they end up in landfill or seas, as their natural degradation is difficult in ambient temperatures.
“They need decades to decompose. Recycling these polymers requires both physiological approaches and chemical methods,” Jain said.
She stated the proposed strategy is a suggestive measure addressing the anticipated problem of disposal of PPE.
In the analysis, the scientists explored the current policies around the Entry of PPEs, their polypropylene content, and the feasibility of converting them into biofuel.
They focused on the structure of polypropylene, its suitability for PPE, why it poses an ecological threat, and methods of recycling the plastic material.
According to their analysis, the scientists predict for the PPE waste to be converted to fuel using pyrolysis — a chemical process for breaking down plastic at high temperature between 300 to 400 level Celsius for an hour without oxygen.
“Pyrolysis is the most widely used chemical method whose advantages include the ability to produce high quantities of bio-oil which is readily biodegradable,” research co-author Bhawna Yadav Lamba said.
“There is obviously a need for other fuels or energy sources to meet our energy demands. The pyrolysis of plastics is one of the methods to mitigate our energy crisis,” Lamba added.
She stated the challenges of PPE waste management and growing energy requirement could be addressed simultaneously by the production of liquid gas from PPE kits.
“The liquid fuel produced from plastics is fresh and contains fuel properties very similar to fossil fuels,” Lamba said.