Plastic from used personal protective equipment (PPE) can, and should, be transformed into renewable biofuels, according to a new study, published in the peer-reviewed journal, Biofuels.
A team of scientists from India found a simple process to transform the plastic material present in many PPE, polypropylene, into biofuel which is on par with traditional fossil fuels like diesel.
Sapna Jain, the study’s lead author and professor of chemistry, argues that sustainability cannot be overlooked even in a global pandemic. PPE is being discarded more frequently which often ends up polluting our oceans and harming marine life.
“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.”
The process to break down this type of plastic is called thermal pyrolysis which includes initiation, propagation, and termination. During initiation, the plastic exposed to extremely high temperatures in order to produce free radicals. These free radicals are further broken down into smaller radicals and molecules during propagation reactions. Finally, in the termination step, these unstable free radicals are brought together in couples.
PPE conversion has the potential to not only “prevent the severe after-effects humankind and the environment,” the authors argue, but also create a new source of energy.
Read more about protecting yourself from coronavirus. Check the CDC website for more information on how to protect yourself and check our latest article to learn how COVID-19 differs from the flu.
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