The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the increased use of disposable face masks worldwide, resulting in a surge of potentially infectious waste. This waste must be safely managed and disposed of to prevent the spread of the virus. To address this issue, a preliminary study explored the use of hydrothermal carbonization (HTC) as a potential method for converting surgical mask waste into value-added carbonaceous materials. The HTC treatments were conducted at 220 °C for 3 h with or without the addition of acetic acid. The resulting hydrochar was characterized using several techniques, including thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), and N2-physisorption analyzers. The study found that the masks formed a melt with reduced mass (−15%) and volume (up to −75%) under the applied conditions. The carbon content and higher heating value (HHV) of the produced hydrochars were higher than those of the original masks (+5%). Furthermore, when acetic acid was added during the HTC experiment, a new crystal phase, terephthalic acid, was produced. This acid is a precursor in surgical mask production. The study suggests that hydrothermal carbonization could potentially achieve sanitization and volume reduction in non-renewable and non-biodegradable surgical masks while also producing a solid fuel or a raw material for terephthalic acid production. This approach offers an innovative and sustainable solution to manage the waste generated by the increased use of disposable face masks during the pandemic.

Valorization of Face Masks Produced during COVID-19 Pandemic through Hydrothermal Carbonization (HTC): A Preliminary Study

Farru, Gianluigi
Primo
;
Cannas, Carla;Cara, Claudio;Muntoni, Aldo;Piredda, Martina;Cappai, Giovanna
Ultimo
2023-01-01

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the increased use of disposable face masks worldwide, resulting in a surge of potentially infectious waste. This waste must be safely managed and disposed of to prevent the spread of the virus. To address this issue, a preliminary study explored the use of hydrothermal carbonization (HTC) as a potential method for converting surgical mask waste into value-added carbonaceous materials. The HTC treatments were conducted at 220 °C for 3 h with or without the addition of acetic acid. The resulting hydrochar was characterized using several techniques, including thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), and N2-physisorption analyzers. The study found that the masks formed a melt with reduced mass (−15%) and volume (up to −75%) under the applied conditions. The carbon content and higher heating value (HHV) of the produced hydrochars were higher than those of the original masks (+5%). Furthermore, when acetic acid was added during the HTC experiment, a new crystal phase, terephthalic acid, was produced. This acid is a precursor in surgical mask production. The study suggests that hydrothermal carbonization could potentially achieve sanitization and volume reduction in non-renewable and non-biodegradable surgical masks while also producing a solid fuel or a raw material for terephthalic acid production. This approach offers an innovative and sustainable solution to manage the waste generated by the increased use of disposable face masks during the pandemic.
2023
hydrothermal carbonization; surgical mask; waste management; waste valorization; solid fuel; value-added chemicals
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11584/364723
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