Sustainability in Instances of COVID-19: Changing Face Masks into Priceless Gas

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, tens of millions of single-use face masks are discarded on daily basis, creating an enormous surge in plastic air pollution. In a latest examine, researchers investigated the feasibility and potential environmental advantages of changing discarded surgical masks into burnable gas by way of a course of referred to as pyrolysis. Their findings pave the way in which to a novel waste-to-energy upcycling strategy, which might assist meet a number of the UN’s sustainable growth targets.

Surgical masks are being utilized in nearly all international locations of the world as the primary line of protection in opposition to COVID-19. Shortly after the pandemic began, the demand for disposable masks skyrocketed to unprecedented ranges; by June 2020, China alone was producing about 200 million masks per day! However the huge quantity of bulk waste constituted by these masks—coupled with workers shortages in waste administration methods as a result of pandemic—drastically exacerbated the risk that these plastic merchandise pose to each human well being and the surroundings.

Can discarded masks be changed into one thing helpful to maintain them away from incinerators, landfill, and our soils and oceans? The reply is a particular sure, as demonstrated by a workforce of researchers in a latest examine revealed in Bioresource Expertise (, who analyzed the potential for changing surgical masks into value-added chemical substances via a thermal decomposition course of referred to as ‘pyrolysis.’ This worldwide workforce of scientists was led by Professor Yong Sik Okay and Dr. Xiangzhou Yuan of Korea College, South Korea,  who acquired nice help from Professor Xun Hu of the College of Jinan and Professor Xiaonan Wang of the Nationwide College of Singapore and Tsinghua College.

Whereas the pyrolysis of polypropylene—the principle part of surgical masks—has already been studied intimately, masks often include different fillers that might have an effect on their pyrolysis conduct. Thus, the analysis workforce needed to rigorously analyze how the pyrolysis situations affected the obtained merchandise, which got here in gaseous, liquid, and stable types. To this finish, they ran a number of experiments at completely different pyrolysis temperatures and with completely different heating charges, capturing all of the outputs and subjecting them to thorough characterization.

Particularly, one set of pyrolysis situations yielded a carbon-rich and oxygen-deficient liquid oil as the principle product. Additional analyses revealed that this oil had a excessive heating worth of 43.5 MJ/kg, which is just barely decrease than that of diesel gas and gasoline. In different phrases, the outcomes confirmed that surgical masks may be transformed right into a burnable gas that may in flip be used, for instance, to generate electrical energy.

The story doesn’t finish there, nonetheless, with the ability to convert waste into one thing helpful doesn’t essentially make it a good suggestion. You will need to first assess the mixed environmental affect of all of the processes concerned and evaluate it with that of present practices earlier than pondering of implementing them. Due to this fact, the researchers carried out a life-cycle evaluation (LCA) of their proposed methodology to raised perceive its professionals and cons. The LCA is an strategy that’s extensively to quantify the environmental impacts related to your entire life cycle of a product; on this case, the discarded masks marked the start of the cycle whereas the electrical energy generated utilizing the obtained gas marked its finish.

The outcomes of the LCA have been promising, indicating that the conversion of waste masks into electrical energy via pyrolysis provided higher efficiency than most standard waste administration approaches on a number of fronts, together with much less CO2 emissions, much less terrestrial ecotoxicity, and fewer phosphorous emissions. “We verified that upcycling post-consumer surgical masks into value-added power merchandise represents a sustainable and promising route with notable environmental advantages,” highlights Dr. Yuan.

General, the findings of this examine point out that pyrolysis is a sexy possibility to unravel the issues posed by discarded surgical waste masks, paving the way in which to sustainable waste administration, whereas producing power and decreasing our environmental affect. “Understanding new methods to show surgical masks into value-added power merchandise will assist us mitigate plastic air pollution and obtain sustainable waste-to-energy conversion sooner or later,” concludes Prof. Okay, “The novel upcycling route proposed in our examine might assist us shield Earth’s ecosystems and attain a number of of the United Nation’s sustainable growth targets.

Allow us to hope this concept is additional examined and in the end applied in order that we are able to scale back our burden on the surroundings.

For extra info, go to page=1&siteId=en&id=en_060106000000&boardSeq=492257&guardian=&command=albumView.


 Authors: Chao Li (1), Xiangzhou Yuan2,3, Ziying Solar4, Manu Suvarna4, Xun Hu1, Xiaonan Wang4,5, Yong Sik Okay2,6 

Title of authentic paper: Pyrolysis of waste surgical masks into liquid gas and its life-cycle evaluation

Journal: Bioresource Expertise



  1. Faculty of Materials Science and Engineering, College of Jinan
  2. Korea Biochar Analysis Middle, APRU Sustainable Waste Administration Program & Division of Environmental Science and Ecological Engineering, Korea College
  3. R&D Centre, Solar Model Industrial Inc.
  4. Division of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Nationwide College of Singapore
  5. Division of Chemical Engineering, Tsinghua College
  6. Institute of Inexperienced Manufacturing Expertise, School of Engineering, Korea College

About Professor Yong Sik Okay 

Prof. Okay is a full professor and world analysis director of Korea College, Seoul, Korea. He has revealed over 900 analysis papers and books, 96 of which have been ranked as Internet of Science ESI prime papers (92 have been chosen as “Extremely Cited Papers” (HCPs), and 4 as “Sizzling Papers”). He has been a Internet of Science Extremely Cited Researcher (HCR) since 2018 in Cross Area, Setting and Ecology, and Engineering. In 2019, he grew to become the primary Korean to be chosen as an HCR within the area of Setting and Ecology. Once more in 2021, he grew to become the primary Korean HCR in two fields: Setting and Ecology, and Engineering.

Prof. Okay is working on the vanguard of worldwide efforts to develop sustainable waste administration methods and applied sciences to handle the rising disaster in digital and plastic waste and air pollution of soil and air with particulate matter. He has additionally served in plenty of positions worldwide, together with as an Honorary Professor on the College of Queensland (Australia), Visiting Professor at Tsinghua College (China), Adjunct Professor on the College of Wuppertal (Germany), and Visitor Professor at Ghent College (Belgium). He maintains a worldwide skilled community by serving as a Co-Editor-in-Chief of Crucial Evaluations in Environmental Science and Expertise, Editor of Environmental Air pollution, member of the editorial advisory board of Environmental Science & Expertise, and editorial board member of Renewable and Sustainable Vitality Evaluations, Chemical Engineering Journal, and Environmental Science: Water Analysis & Expertise, and several other different prime journals. He at the moment serves because the Director of the Sustainable Waste Administration Program for the Affiliation of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) and Co-President of the Worldwide ESG Affiliation. Furthermore, he has served on the Scientific Organizing Committee of P4G Nature Discussion board: Local weather Change and Biodiversity, and Nature Discussion board: Plastics and Sustainability. Prof. Okay has additionally served because the chairman of quite a few main conferences such because the Engineering Sustainable Improvement collection (ESD collection), organized by the APRU and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE). In 2021, Prof. Okay hosted the primary Nature convention amongst South Korean universities in Seoul on waste administration and valorization for a sustainable future along with Chief Editors of Nature Sustainability (Dr. Monica Contestabile), Nature Electronics (Dr. Owain Vaughan), and Nature Nanotechnology (Dr. Fabio Pulizzi). Prof. Okay will host the primary Nature Discussion board on Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) for World Sustainability: the “E” Pillar for Sustainable Enterprise.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.