wouldn't you love it if . . .


there were a use for all those dirty diapers?

Well, there is. Now before you say “Eeuuw!” let me tell you that they clean them up first.

A company inthe United Kingdom, Knowaste, has been recycling dirty diapers – both the juvenile and the adult versions –  and feminine hygiene products (a group they call absorbent hygiene products) since the 1990s.

The process involves three key stages:

  1. Used nappies, adult incontinence and feminine hygiene products (AHPs) are collected and transported to a Knowaste plant.
  2. The Knowaste process sterilizes the AHP material, deactivates and mechanically separates the individual components:  organic residue, plastic and super absorbent polymers.
  3. The reclaimed components can then be made into recycled products such as:
    • plastic components for product manufacturing
    • plastic recycling bins
    • Plastic roofing tiles
    • cardboard
    • cardboard industrial tubing
    • fillers in the construction and road building sector

 

So, why recycle these AHPs? Knowaste’s answer,” Because we can!” Seriously, folks, we do not want these things in our landfills.

  1. They take 500 years to decompose
  2. They contain human waste
  3. We can salvage the raw materials

So, here we have a company that has been quietly taking our dirty diapers and making them into useful stuff since at least 1999. According to the company website, their facility at Arnheim in the Netherlands:

  • Processes up to 100,000 tons of diaper material per year.
  • Successfully converts disposable diapers and adult incontinence products into marketable materials.
  • Produces 20,000 tons of recycled fiber and 12,000 tons of usable recycled plastic per year.
  • Recycles diaper and incontinence waste from more than 1,200 healthcare institutions, 750 day care facilities and more than 100 municipalities in The Netherlands.
  • Saves 150 million gallons of fresh water that would be used in the normal production of cellulose fiber.
  • Saves more than one million cubic meters of natural gas; enough energy to power a city with a population of 10,000 for one year.
  • Saves more than 230,000 trees from being harvested each year to obtain the equivalent fiber than can be recovered from this facility

Now, I’d probably be very quiet, too, if I were cleaning up dirty diapers. However, I do think that these folks deserve a great big round of applause for taking something so distasteful to us and harmful to the environment and turning it, diaper by diaper by feminine hygiene product, into useful things while saving our other resources.

 If you hear that these folks are coming around your landfills or your towns to ask for a contract, please support them. Speak up for them to your elected officials and get AHPs out of our landfills.  Knowaste will take all the used AHPs from hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and daycare centers and recycle them. So they don’t take AHPs from you and me – that is still a lot of extra room in our landfills and a lot of  resources saved.

Knowaste was once in the US; in Santa Clarita, Ca. (Because of this, California unfairly got the credit for diaper recycling in a blog back in 2002.) The program there was terminated in 2003 because it was still too costly for the single household. Knowaste has been working on bringing the cost to the household down, though it still costs more to recycle those dydies than to throw them away – wehn you measure the cost in dollars spent  on fees alone – so they do not deal with single family dwellings or even apartment complexes, yet. The kids in my life are long out of diapers, but I’m hoping that their children’s dirty dydies will be recycled.

Rock on!

 

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