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Exploring the potential of pollution-to-value

pollution - climateaction

Exploring the potential of pollution-to-value

The environmental problems that the world is battling with today stem from the indiscriminate activities of humans. Ecosystems are being degraded and polluted, resulting in an inhabitable environment for humans and other living species.

Oftentimes, the solution to these environmental problems usually just means ridding the earth of all the pollution that human activities are generating – not necessarily inventing solutions from scratch.

Scientists have cracked this and are developing a growing interest in creating something valuable out of pollution, a “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” phenomenon.

Through research, they have now successfully proven several ways to obtain useful products from industrial and agricultural waste, while at the same time remediating contamination of soil, water, and air.

In the aspect of air pollution, scientists are exploring ways to mitigate carbon emissions which are a major contributor to climate change. They are developing processes that can capture carbon dioxide and convert it into useful chemicals like methanol which can be used for fuel cells, and urea which is used as a solvent in the chemical industry.

Scientists use a system that is alkali hydroxide–based to convert carbon dioxide into fuel that is carbon-neutral. A recent one-pot process converts carbon from the air into methanol at moderate temperatures using a solution of potassium hydroxide in ethylene glycol, hydrogen, and a ruthenium catalyst.

To address water pollution, researchers are developing ways to recover and turn the toxins and organic matter that treatment facilities remove from wastewater before they get to natural water systems like rivers and the ocean.

For example, phosphorus and nitrogen which are essential soil nutrients that are found in wastewater could be very useful to farm fields as fertilizers. They can produce granular ammonium sulphate (NH4)2SO4 and phosphorus precipitate suitable for fertilizers.

Finally, to address soil contamination, especially from heavy metals, researchers are exploring ways beyond the conventional solution which is to dig out the contaminated soil and dispose of it at a landfill site because the contaminants leak out of the soil and into underground water reservoirs and also ends up polluting plants and food crops.

Scientists are developing an alternative method that involves a combination of phytoremediation – a plant-based approach that involves the use of plants to extract heavy metals from contaminated soil and accumulate them in roots, stems, and branches.

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