CAIRO: Environmental pollution is a global epidemic, and it tops the list of Egypt s concerns. Textile, paper and pharmaceutical factories create waste product residues that exacerbate the problem.
If left to accumulate, they can also be a burden for garbage collectors and are difficult to process through recycling machines due to their sheer quantity.
Rice husks, Nile flowers and sawdust are among the most burdensome refuse for Egyptian manufacturers. To get rid of rice husks, farmers usually burn them – the resulting fires and smog have been a major problem for years, with the Ministry of Environment stipulating new measures in an attempt to prevent the annual black cloud.
Nile flowers are a kind of floating plant that breed on the surface of rivers, forming huge layers that spread. This increases evaporation and prevents oxygen and light from reaching marine animals.
While sawdust serves a purpose at cafes where it is scattered over the floor to prevent slippery tiles, trashing it is also another concern for environmentalists.
According to new research conducted at the National Research Center, if treated with certain chemicals, the waste products can actually be utilized to help the environment.
Dr Wafa Ezz Rashwan, from the physical chemistry department at the center, explained that rice husks and Nile flowers were treated using heat and a non-organic acid. “The items were then rinsed and dried, and we managed to obtain an effective carbonic substance, said Rashwan.
“Research proved that the carbonic substances produced are perfect absorbents of organic substances and other dyes found in the water drained by textile, paper and pharmaceutical factories as well as oil refineries, the researcher said.
“These remains are dumped in sewerage. Unless the sewerage water is treated properly before it is drained, the remains become major pollutants of water, air and soil, she added. Moreover, the carbonic substances obtained from the treatment of Nile flowers and rice husks cost less because they are produced locally.
Sawdust was proven to be instrumental in reducing the harmful effect of dyes that are widely used in the textiles, cosmetic, plastic and paper industries.
The number of colors listed in the color index has reached 9,000, and the dyes they leave behind pose a threat to public health.
Studies have shown a number of methods used to get rid of the effect of dyes in sewerage water including filtering and removing the dyes through the use of fungi or absorbents.
Dr. Ashraf Mahmud Hassan, from the textiles department at the National Research Center, said that treated sawdust proved effective in removing two types of dye.
“To produce the required effect the sawdust has been activated through the use of sodium hydroxide. It then had to interact with hypochlorite hydrine and ammonium hydrogen, stated Hassan.
“Experimentation indicated that the more concentrated and the longer the time the resultant solution is used, the bigger the quantity of the dye removed, he added.
Since 1997, environmental policies in the United Kingdom have stipulated that the percentage of industrialized chemicals allowed to reach the environment should be zero.