Pyrolysis of waste surgical masks into liquid fuel and its life-cycle assessment

Chao Li, Xiangzhou Yuan, Ziying Sun, Manu Suvarna, Xun Hu, Xiaonan Wang, Yong Sik Ok

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Citations (Scopus)


Pyrolysis of the middle layer of a surgical mask (MLM) and inner and outer layers of a surgical mask (IOM) was performed to assess their potential valorization as waste-to-energy feedstocks, and the characteristics of the resulting products were investigated. Pyrolysis of the main organics in waste surgical masks occurred at a very narrow temperature range of 456–466 °C. The main product was carbon-rich and oxygen-deficient liquid oil with a high heating value (HHV) of 43.5 MJ/kg. From the life-cycle perspective, environmental benefits and advantages of this upcycling approach were verified compared with conventional waste management approaches. This study advocated the potential application of waste surgical masks as feedstocks for fuels and energy, which is beneficial to mitigate plastic pollution and achieve sustainable plastic waste-to-energy upcycling, simultaneously.

Original languageEnglish
Article number126582
JournalBioresource technology
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Feb

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Program for Taishan Scholars of Shandong Province Government, the Cooperative Research Program for Agriculture Science and Technology Development (Project No. PJ01475801) from Rural Development Administration, the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) grant funded by the Korea government (MSIT) (No. 2021R1A2C2011734), Basic Science Research Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea(NRF) funded by the Ministry of Education (NRF-2021R1A6A1A10045235), and OJEong Resilience Institute, Korea University, Republic of Korea. X. Wang, M. Suvarna, and Z. Sun also acknowledge the National Research Foundation, Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore under its Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (CREATE) program.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


  • COVID-19
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Plastic pollution
  • Upcycling
  • Waste management
  • Waste-to-energy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Waste Management and Disposal


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