Scientists in the Czech Republic are using a toxic sludge leftover from the production of leather to produce biofuel, providing a cheaper and greener material for the fuel. Amy Pollock reports.
This vat of grey sludge could hold a new supply of biofuel. A team of Czech scientists have found a way to convert the toxic byproducts of leather production into fuel. According to Professor Karel Kolomaznik from Tomas Bata University, it all starts with leftover fat parts called fleshings... (SOUNDBITE) (Czech) PROFESSOR KAREL KOLOMAZNIK, SAYING: "These are the fleshings which remain after the removal of subcutaneous ligament and fat. This tannery waste is the main source of biodiesel production." Fleshings are also be a source of toxic waste, according to Kolomaznik. But thanks to the method that he and his team have developed, the fleshings are refined into fuel instead of becoming an environmental hazard . (SOUNDBITE) (Czech) PROFESSOR KAREL KOLOMAZNIK, SAYING: "We are solving a serious ecological problem, in principle, by processing the waste tannery fat - fleshings. It is very dangerous to burn them, because they pollute the environment with dioxins and nitrogen oxides." Until now fleshings were not considered suitable for biodiesel manufacture because they contain high levels of proteins and free fatty acids, both of which need to be completely removed to produce fuel. Scientist Jiri Pecha says the team achieved this by melting down the leftover fat and extracting the acids using a chemical process which further refines the fuel. (SOUNDBITE) (Czech) SCIENTIST JIRI PECHA SAYING: "The production of the biodiesel takes place here, where we put the refined fat into the pilot plant reactors. After the reaction the glycerin is separated from the biodiesel." The team hopes to attract investment to scale up production with the hopes of proving that refined leather sludge could be clean energy source in the years to come.