Christmas trees that have fulfilled their festive mission can be an excellent raw material for the production of paints and sweeteners, says the research by Cynthia Kartey, a Ph.D. student from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, England.
According to average estimates, every year the British install up to 8 million trees, of which 7 are then sent to the landfill.
Coniferous beauty has hundreds of thousands of needles, which need a long time for decomposition as compared with deciduous trees. Moreover, the decomposition of needles release a huge amount of greenhouse gases.
However, with appropriate processing allow to turn Christmas tree needles into natural chemicals, which can be used for production of useful products.
The main component (up to 85%) of needles is a complex polymer, lignocellulose.
Under the heat and cheap environmentally friendly solvents, for example, glucose, lignocellulose breaks down into a liquid product – bio-oil and solid by-product (bio-char).
The biomass usually contains glucose, acetic acid and phenol. These chemicals are widely used in many industries: glucose – in the production of sweeteners for food, acetic acid – for the manufacture of paints, adhesives and vinegar. A bio-coal, for example, can be used in agriculture to feed the soil.
Thus, the process of Christmas tree recycling is waste-free. By the way, both old trees and fresh ones are suitable for processing.