Turning Old PPE to Biofuel

Turning Old PPE to Biofuel

Currently, PPE is being disposed of at unprecedented levels. It is becoming a significant environmental threat which everyone should pay attention to.

“There is always a need for alternative fuels or energy resources to meet our energy demands. The challenges of PPE waste management and increasing energy demand could be addressed simultaneously by the production of liquid fuel from PPE kits.”

Dr. Bhawna Yadav Lamba, co-author*

One of the inevitable side effects of this global pandemic and increased use of PPE is the TRASH from it. With more people using PPE, it’s unsurprising to learn that researchers are looking at ways to make this garbage useful again – to find it a second life.

“PPE” stands for personal protective equipment, like surgical and medical face masks, shields, and gloves. Photo by Mier Chen on Unsplash 2020.

Likely, even those of us who don’t keep up with sustainability efforts have noticed the massive return to single-use plastics and throw-away products. In an effort to keep things clean from virus spread, we’ve ended up with a lot more waste as a side effect.

This isn’t all bad, as we can talk about another time, but today we’re talking breakthroughs! We want to share the news about a recent scientific study which focuses on converting this disposed product into something we always need: fuel!

Photo by Anshu A on Unsplash 2020.

But, why does a “little” more trash even matter right now??

Well, once these plastic materials are disposed of, they end up in landfills or oceans in the environment. Since their natural degradation is difficult at regular temperatures, they need DECADES to decompose.

Recycling these polymers requires both physical and chemical methods, but they’are not widespread enough for common use. Not to mention, we have a global recycling crisis right now!

Normally, “reduce, reuse, and recycle” are the three pillars of sustainable development. Those would help to prevent the unnecessary discharge of these plastics into the environment. Unfortunately, it’s difficult and/or impossible to reduce, reuse, or recycle in a global pandemic event.

Photo by visuals on Unsplash 2020.

Tackling Two Problems At Once

Thankfully, there are researchers at the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies (UPES) in India who tackled this very pressing priority. They assert that billions of items of disposable PPE can be converted from its polypropylene state into liquid biofuels – which are known to be on par with standard fossil fuels.

Co-author of the study, 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.

Photo by Tonik on Unsplash 2020.

“Presently, the world is focusing to combat COVID-19, however, we can foresee the issues of economic crisis and ecological imbalance also”

-Dr. Sapna Jain, lead author of the Biofuels article. Quoted at Phys.org.

What do YOU think about this news??? Drop us a line on Facebook or leave a ❤️️ to our Instagram. We would LOVE to hear from your perspective!

If you want a more in-depth look at the technical aspects and science behind this process and what it all means, you can visit Popular Mechanics or SciTechDaily.

You can read even more about the study in detail here or read the original peer-reviewed scientific article by Sapna Jain, Bhawna Yadav Lamba, Sanjeev Kumar and Deepanmol Singh here through the Taylor & Francis journal Biofuels, 2020.

* – The article this blog post discusses is titled: “Strategy for repurposing of disposed PPE kits by production of biofuel: Pressing priority amidst COVID-19 pandemic”, 3 August 2020.

Caronavirus Consequences: US Recycling & Waste At Risk

Highlighting Waste & Recycling Pressures During a Modern Pandemic

An Excerpt Collection
A discarded medical glove in Jersey City, N.J., April 27, 2020. Arturo 
Holmes/Getty Images

. . .

|”Many of the new staples of pandemic life (such as single-use plastic containers, online shopping packaging and disposable gloves, wipes and face masks) are made from plastics that are simply not worth recycling if there are any other disposal options.”|

“Many items designated as reusable, communal or secondhand have been temporarily barred to minimize person-to-person exposure. This is producing higher volumes of waste.”

|”Sanitation workers have noted massive increases in municipal garbage and recyclables. In cities like Chicago, workers have seen up to 50% more waste. According to the Solid Waste Association of North America, U.S. cities saw a 20% average increase in municipal solid waste and recycling collection from March into April 2020.”|

While bottle deposit stations remain closed, recyclables pile up in 
basements and garages. David Rieland, CC BY-ND

“The global recycling economy has suffered since 2018 as first China and then other Asian nations started banning imports of low-quality scrap – often meaning improperly cleaned food packaging and poorly sorted recyclable materials. “

|”Given worker safety concerns, low market prices for scrap materials, a slowed economy and cheaper alternatives for disposal, many communities and businesses across the U.S. have temporarily suspended collection of recyclables and bottle deposits.“|

“Based on monitoring since 2017 by the trade publication Waste Dive, nearly 90 curbside recycling programs had experienced or continue to experience a prolonged suspension over the past several years. About 30 of these suspensions have occurred since January 2020.

|”Although higher volumes of recyclables are being set on the curb, budget deficits are squeezing recycling programs. Many municipalities are struggling with multimillion-dollar shortfalls. Some communities have cut recycling programs altogether. And these stresses are testing an industry already facing uncertainty.”|

The original article is from The Conversation, republished in excerpts here
under a Creative Commons license. You may wish to read the original "COVID-
19 is Laying Waste to Many U.S. Recycling Programs".
Authors of the original article: Brian J. Love, Professor of Materials 
Science and Engineering, University of Michigan and Julie Rieland, PhD 
Candidate in Macromolecular Science and Engineering, University of Michigan

. . .

If you’d like to read more about how the system of recycling worldwide has been struggling since 2018, we wrote an informative piece about it in our blog here. The next installment in the Recycling series will discuss the implications of Asia’s regulation restrictions, issues with materials contamination, and costs associated with keeping such programs alive. More to come soon.

Is Recycling Broken?

Is Recycling Broken?

Part One: The Part and Parcel of It

This blog post will be part of a series as we delve into the hows and whys of what is wrong with recycling today. There are too many issues and factors to include in one piece, so rather than making you read a novella-length blog post, we’re breaking things down in more easily digestible components.

Even if you don’t follow recycling or sustainability news, you’ve probably heard mention of the global recycling industry’s latest troubles. You might think, “What’s the problem? People have been recycling for decades. So what has changed?” – and therein lies the issue.

The answer is Everything. Everything has changed.

Over the last several decades, products have become more difficult to recycle due to the often complicated and mixed materials used to package them. The process of recycling used to be much simpler because there were fewer materials being used and it was easy enough for the consumer to sort items properly into simple categories: Plastic, paper, glass, cardboard, metal, etc.

Image by Vivianne Lema on Unsplash

Nowadays, too many packaging materials have mixed materials and new polymers for basic consumer items. For example, take the iconic Pringles can. It’s not the most straightforward product to send to recycling. It consists of a cardboard-like paper cylinder (which is lined in foil), a metal bottom, and a plastic lid.

Depending on where you live, you may have to completely break it down in order to have it recycled properly. Most people do not put in the time or effort to even consider recycling the Pringles can, but it is possible. The confusion seems to be pretty universal, too. See below:

A screenshot of a Reddit thread. – Source

Even the Kellogg Company has acknowledged this design being problematic. Noting that they intend to work “toward 100 percent reusable, recyclable, or compostable packaging by the end of 2025”, they have started an Official recycling program for their cans in the UK. See more here.

But this isn’t an article about the Pringles can…

This is an illustrative example of the most common types of mixed packaging which have complicated the recycling process over recent years. Others include foil lined plastic or plastic-lined paper, and plastics that resemble foil and confuse the consumer, as well as adhesive/tape on paper materials or wax-lined paper (such as in many coffee takeaway cups).

Image by Waste Management 2018 – Source

Many people are putting in effort to “do the work” and recycle items, but are sadly guilty of being untrained in the right way. We have a culture of Wishful Recycling, which is great theoretically, but an incomplete strategy in practice.

Still many others admit that they don’t even want to bother with recycling if it isn’t “easy” to do. In a Harris Poll from Fall 2018, two-thirds (or 66%) of US adults surveyed agree: “if a product is not easy/convenient for me to recycle, I probably would not recycle it”.

But let’s not shift all the blame on consumers…

Consumers and average citizens, even activists or community organizers involved in recycling education, can only do so much. Ultimately, more people need to get involved in demanding better systems – asking for more sustainable packaging from brands and manufacturers.

We’ll have more next time, focusing on China’s “new” regulation restrictions, materials contamination, and costs. In the mean time, drop us a line and tell us what you are most unsure about when it comes to recycling. Have anything that stands out or really baffles you?

Articles consulted in this blog post include pieces from Patagonia, Medium, The Week, Gizmodo, and Waste Advantage.

Dumpster Brokers: The Truth You Should Know

Dumpster Brokers: The Truth You Should Know

This piece is especially timely right now, because there are always outsiders looking to “make a buck” off of local tragedy. When natural disaster strikes, as it has in Southeast Texas recently with Imelda, predatory businesses sometimes try to use the circumstances to their advantage, mostly at the expense of true locals.

“What is a dumpster broker anyway?”

In short, they are middlemen. Brokers often act as if they are a local dumpster service, when in fact they don’t own any dumpsters and are definitely not locally based or owned. If you are the average person looking for quotes or pricing info for local dumpsters, rolloffs, storage containers, etc. and you have ever done a simple search through Google, Bing, or another search engine, then you have likely seen a broker advertising as if they were local.

Don’t be fooled by the fakes, choose local.

Dumpster brokers are sometimes hard to spot because they typically don’t announce the fact that they are a broker. They actively seek unused local addresses and phone numbers to advertise on their websites. But when you call them and ask for a return phone number, they will often give you a direct line that is out of State or toll-free. These guys answering the phone often want to make a commission, can be pushy about securing terms soon, and will insist on theirs being “the best deal locally”. The broker businesses they represent want to charge you more for using the same products and services you could find locally with a phone book directory or simple word of mouth referral.

You can avoid these companies (and extra fees!) by calling known dumpster providers in your area!

One quick way to check if the company is truly local is to edit your search terms for another city. For example, if you searched for “local rolloff Beaumont Texas” and have come across a company that might be a broker, change your search. Have it read “local rolloff San Antonio Texas”, or Houston, Austin, etc. instead. If the very same company comes up as local and has a different phone number for each area code, that is a red flag that this is not a locally-owned company. It’s a broker.

Besides the increased cost of using brokers, communication pitfalls are another inevitable result if you aren’t choosing truly local companies.

“Information on getting what you want, where you want it, when you want it now travels through a third party. Details and advice on sizes, placement, payment, loading and more all get short-changed. Broker’s information is usually somewhat vague because they advertise the same services and roll-off containers to every city in the country with one website.”

From Sam Stankie of Sam’s Hauling Inc. in Denver, CO.

If you need to make last minute adjustments and update your delivery driver directly, going through a third-party can cause delays and confusion. If you are not sure about the size of rolloff you need for your specific projects, a local company’s best interest is to customize your work order to your needs. However, a broker’s main concern is making money as the middleman and may not give the best advice on which size container to use.

|REMEMBER| A reputable, local dumpster/rolloff rental company will be licensed, insured, and upfront about its pricing structure. Avoid broker websites that have vague, outdated information, or very generalized details but no pricing information anywhere.

Do you think you’ve been duped by a broker before?

Do you have any experiences with brokers like this? We would love to know your thoughts about them and any tips on how to look out for their tricks.

The Potential of Food Waste

Food waste is a critical global problem, with roughly 1/3 of all food going uneaten across the world. Apart from the obvious tragedy of having so much excess food go to waste when so many people worldwide suffer through insufficient food access, there are myriad additional reasons for us to pay attention to this reality.

As food breaks down and decomposes, it releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is 21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. This is incredibly harmful to the environment and has a huge impact on global warming.

*But there are solutions to prevent this from happening and ways to use our global food waste for good.*

© 2019 BioGasWorld Media Inc. – Source BioGasWorld

Apart from the above hypothetical ways food waste COULD be converted into energy for use by human technologies, there are ways that we are currently ALREADY using such food waste for societal betterment.

Sweden, for example, converts much of its food waste into biogas, which is used as vehicle fuel for public transportation. The methane produced is also sometimes used in manufacturing processes. The biogas process generates a nutrient-rich digestion residue which can also be used as a fertilizer.

To read more and get the full story about Sweden’s biogas, visit SmartCitySweden.

Some facts about your food waste…It’s not garbage!

2016 – Source FocoCafe

It’s not just places like Sweden and the UK that are making simple changes which have drastic impacts on our environmental well-being. Here in the United States, other companies have prioritized finding a solution to the food waste problem.

For example, CORe® is an organic recycling process which creates a renewable energy to be used for electricity and heat. From efforts like those of Waste Management Organics, every ton of food waste results in enough electrical energy produced to power 8-10 homes.

To read more and get the full story about CORe®, visit WM Media.


“Saving food means saving money, but look at the bigger picture, too. Reducing food waste is good for the planet, as it helps slow down global warming. If global food waste were a country, it would be third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the US. By using up every edible bit of your food, you’re doing your bit to look after the environment; imagine what we could achieve if we all make a change?”

Love Food Hate Waste
2016 – Source WindUpBattery

There are even personal Household Biogas digester systems which can be purchased, if you have the means and want to prioritize effectively using your family’s food waste. HomeBioGas is one such company offering private citizens the opportunity to make their own biogas at home.

© 2019 HomeBiogas Inc – Source

What do you think about the rise of BioGas and the state of food waste in the world today? Have you learned anything from this article that you didn’t know before? Let us know!

UNICEF Gives A Reason to Celebrate “Back to School” Season!

UNICEF Gives A Reason to Celebrate “Back to School” Season!

Construction site of a partially-built house made with bricks constructed from plastic waste at the UNICEF Côte d'Ivoire office.
©2018 UNICEF/UN0206949/Dejongh – Image Source

The school year is just around the corner for most of us here in Southeast Texas! It’s with hopeful hearts we share the recent news that bricks made from recycled plastic waste can be used to build a variety of sustainable materials!

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