BOGOTA — Colombia’s National University is working on recycling used banknotes, by processing them into an absorbent material that cleans water and air of pollutants, El Espectador reports.
Some 169 million banknotes in Colombia are replaced every year. And the University’s chemical engineering department found that shredding them creates “activated carbon,” a crystalline substance able to absorb the chemical waste produced by a range of industrial and manufacturing processes, including — wait for it — the production of banknotes.
The conversion process involves mixing the shredded notes with urea, a chemical compound found notably in urine. María Paula Franco, one of the chemists experimenting with the process, observed that because Colombian banknotes are made of cotton-derived fiber, they could return to the earth as degradable compost.