London: If discarded wrapping paper and Christmas cards in the UK were collected and fermented, they could make enough biofuel to run a double-decker bus to run more than 20 trips to moon.
This has been stated by a study at Imperial College London which demonstrates that industrial quantities of waste paper could be turned into high grade biofuel, to power motor vehicles, by fermenting the paper using micro-organisms.
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 kilometres 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 litres 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 metre of wrapping paper is 10g, then around 38,300 tonnes 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."
Across the year, around 60 percent of the UK's waste paper is collected for recycling or other waste management schemes, which equates to around 8 million tonnes.
The scientists say that using a well-tested fermentation method and a novel cocktail of efficient and cheap chemical enzymes, their system could be scaled up to the size of existing industrial processing plants and be used to convert 2000 tonnes of waste paper per day into biofuels.