Currently, the enormous generation of contaminated disposed face masks raises many environmental concerns. The present study provides a novel route for efficient crude bio-oil production from disposed masks through co-hydrothermal liquefaction (Co-HTL) with Spirulina platensis grown in wastewater. Ultimate and proximate analysis confirmed that S. platensis contains relatively high nitrogen content (9.13%dw), which decreased by increasing the mask blend ratio. However, carbon and hydrogen contents were higher in masks (83.84 and 13.77%dw, respectively). In addition, masks showed 29.6% higher volatiles than S. platensis, which resulted in 94.2% lower ash content. Thermal decomposition of masks started at a higher temperature (≈330 °C) comparing to S. platensis (≈208 °C). The highest bio-oil yield was recorded by HTL of S. platensis and Co-HTL with 25% (w/w) masks at 300 °C, which showed insignificant differences with each other. GC/MS analysis of the bio-oil produced from HTL of algal biomass showed a high proportion of nitrogen- and oxygen-containing compounds (3.6% and 11.9%, respectively), with relatively low hydrocarbons (17.4%). Mask blend ratio at 25% reduced the nitrogen-containing compounds by 55.6% and enhanced the hydrocarbons by 43.7%. Moreover, blending of masks with S. platensis enhanced the compounds within the diesel range in favor of gasoline and heavy oil. Overall, the present study provides an innovative route for enhanced bio-oil production through mask recycling coupled with wastewater treatment.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s13399-021-01891-2.