SEATTLE (Waste Advantage): Stricter environmental norms and fossil fuel pollution call for cleaner fuels such as biodiesel. This vegetable oil- or animal fat-based diesel is biodegradable—up to four times faster than petroleum diesel—and nontoxic. However, the high production cost of biodiesel remains a major barrier to its wider applicability, and, depending on the biomass source, using it may cause pollution. Adding a blender such as a triacetin compound, can solve both of these issues, according to research. Unfortunately, triacetin is usually produced chemically, consuming a lot of chemicals, and resulting in waste and toxic residues.
“Triacetin is used as a plasticizer in cigarettes’ filter, so, naturally, cigarette butts are rich in it,” says Samy Yousef, a chief researcher at Kaunas University of Technology, Lithuania. Together with his colleagues from the Lithuanian Energy Institute (LEI), he conducted a series of experiments where they used pyrolysis to thermally decompose cigarette waste. The experiments were carried out in a 200 g reactor at different reaction temperatures (650, 700, and 750°C). The biggest quantity of triacetin (43%) was synthesized at 750°C.
Smokers around the world buy roughly 6.5 trillion cigarettes each year. The average weight of a cigarette butt is 0.2 g; more than 1.1 million tons of them are produced annually. Cigarette waste contains extensive amounts of toxic chemicals, carcinogens, microplastic fibers, and radioactive elements that need special attention.