If all the UK’s discarded wrapping paper and Christmas cards were collected and fermented, they could make enough biofuel to run a double-decker bus to the moon and back more than 20 times, according to the researchers behind a new scientific study.
The study, by scientists at Imperial College London, demonstrates that industrial quantities of waste paper could be turned into high grade biofuel, to power motor vehicles, by fermenting the paper using microorganisms. The researchers hope that biofuels made from waste paper could ultimately provide one alternative to fossil fuels like diesel and petrol, in turn reducing the impact of fossil fuels on the environment.
According to some estimates 1.5 billion cards and 83 square kilometers of wrapping paper are thrown away by UK residents over the Christmas period. They currently go to landfill or are recycled in local schemes. This amount of paper could provide 5-12 million liters of biofuel, say the researchers, enough to run a bus for up to 18 million km.
“If one card is assumed to weigh 20g and one square meter of wrapping paper is 10g, then around 38,300 tons of extra paper waste will be generated at Christmas time,” said study author Dr Richard Murphy from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London. “Our research shows that it would be feasible to build waste paper-to-biofuel processing plants that give energy back as transport fuel.”