Recycling cigarette butts may reduce biodiesel production costs

In an effort to drive down the production cost of biodiesel, researchers have developed an eco-friendly way of extracting triacetin, a combustion-enhancing additive, from an abundant waste source: cigarette butts. Recycling cigarette butts in this way would not only dispose of waste but put it to sustainable use.

Made from biological sources like edible and non-edible oils, animal fats and waste restaurant grease, biodiesel is a renewable, biodegradable fuel, an alternative to conventional ‘fossil’ diesel with low harmful greenhouse gas emissions. It sounds good on paper, however, the high cost of biodiesel production is the main barrier to its worldwide marketing.

An effective solution is to mix biodiesel with an additive like the triglyceride triacetin. Studies have shown that triacetin can contribute to reducing air pollution and increase biodiesel’s combustibility. The problem is that triacetin is generally produced chemically, which consumes a lot of chemicals and produces a lot of waste and toxic residue. This means that an alternative, eco-friendly source of triacetin is needed.

Researchers from Kaunus University of Technology (KTU), Lithuania, have collaborated with the Lithuanian Energy Institute to develop a way of extracting triacetin from an ample supply of waste products: cigarette butts.

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