I previously wrote about the COVID-19 plastic waste issue and it’s a big problem. But researchers from Korea University looked into turning old surgical face masks into burnable fuel via pyrolysis.
Surgical masks are being used in virtually all countries of the world as the first line of defense against COVID-19. Shortly after the pandemic started, the demand for disposable masks skyrocketed to unprecedented levels; by June 2020, China alone was producing about 200 million masks per day. But the enormous amount of bulk waste constituted by these masks—coupled with staff shortages in waste management systems due to the pandemic—greatly exacerbated the threat that these plastic products pose to both human health and the environment.
Can discarded masks be turned into something useful to keep them away from incinerators, landfill, and our soils and oceans? The answer is a definite yes, as demonstrated by a team of researchers in a recent study published in Bioresource Technology, who analyzed the possibility of converting surgical masks into value-added chemicals through a thermal decomposition process called “pyrolysis.” This international team of scientists was led by Professor Yong Sik Ok and Dr. Xiangzhou Yuan of Korea University, South Korea, who received great support from Professor Xun Hu of the University of Jinan and Professor Xiaonan Wang of the National University of Singapore and Tsinghua University.
The question is what the downsides of this process would be and whether the biggest contributors to the issue care enough to put their money and resources into it.
(via Tech Xplore)