According to a study by the Imperial College of London (ICL), if all the used wrapping paper and holiday cards in the United Kingdom were gathered and fermented, they could create enough biofuel to run a double decker bus to the moon and back 20 times (11 million miles). The ICL study reports that 1.5 billion cards and 52 square miles of wrapping paper will be thrown away in the UK this year, and the study further details a process that could break down all this waste using microorganisms to create biofuel capable of replacing petrol and diesel. If processed, a staggering one to three million gallons of biofuel could be generated.

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This study has implications not just for the holiday season, but for year round paper waste. “Our research shows that it would be feasible to build waste paper-to-biofuel processing plants that give energy back as transport fuel,” said the author of the study Dr. Richard Murphy from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London.

The study appears in the Royal Society of Chemistry Journal Energy and Environmental Science and describes how the team fermented different types of holiday waste into usable biofuel. They believe they can scale their processes up to be used in commercial scale operations.

“The fermentation process could even cope with festive paper and card which has been ‘contaminated’ with the likes of glitter and sellotape. The cellulose molecules in sellotape would be broken down into glucose sugars and then fermented into ethanol fuel, just like the paper itself. Insoluble items like glitter are easy to filter out as part of the process,” explained PhD student Lei Wang, co-author of the study.

Previously, it has been discovered that many holiday papers — especially those that have certain types of dyes and non-paper additions — can’t be recycled in normal recycling centers. This process could solve that issue and provide a cleaner burning fuel from a resource that, as of now, generally ends up in a landfill.

Via Science Daily