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Pine needles could be turned into paint and food sweeteners

How many Christmas trees do you think are used in the world at Christmas? According to the National Christmas Tree Association, there are close to 350 million Christmas trees currently growing on Christmas tree farms in the United States alone and about 25 to 30 million real Christmas trees sold every year. There are about 8 million sold in the UK each year. That is a lot of trees just in these 2 countries.

There are no statistics available for the number of trees purchased Canada but there are statistics for how many trees Canada exports each year. In 2013 this number is over 1.5 million.

So what if these trees after the festive holidays are over could be used to make something useful for us?

As reported on Science Daily: “Cynthia Kartey, a PhD student from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, has found that useful products can be made from the chemicals extracted from pine needles when processed.

The major component (up to 85 per cent) of pine needles is a complex polymer known as lignocellulose. The complexity of this polymer makes using pine needles as a product for biomass energy unattractive and useless to most industrial processes.”

Cynthia’s research found a way around this issue. She figured out how to turn the complex structure into simple, high-valued industrial chemical feedstocks such as sugars and phenolics, which are used in products like household cleaners and mouthwash.

“Biorefineries would be able to use a relatively simple but unexplored process to break down the pine needles.”Cynthia Kartey

Maybe there is some hope to recover from our mass consumption over the holidays! Read more on the Science Daily website.

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