Soma discussed these efforts at EDANA's International Symposium in Prague, Czech Republic earlier this month.
The carbon negative recycling process could lessen the environmental impact of the absorbent hygiene products (AHP) industry, which currently contributes about 900,000 tons, or about three landfills, to Italy’s solid waste per year, Soma says that consumers have been pushing for reusability or recyclability in the diaper market for 20 years but quality concerns have been a deterring factor.
“To make sure that recycling is an option, you have to consider storage conditions, you have to make sure that the technology is flexible enough to handle a number of polymer types and, most importantly, you have to consider the needs of the end users,” he says.
Before moving forward with the recycling operation, Fater, which is a joint venture between Angelis in Italy and Procter & Gamble and makes diapers and other absorbent products under the Lines, Pampers, Linidor, Dignity and Tampax brands, had completed a pilot-sized recycling effort, known as the Recall project. The new line is now going through a qualification process.
Joking that a used diaper is a “real mess," Soma says after sterilizing, drying and separating the materials, the plastics can go into a number of different end use product categories including bedding pads for pets, automotives, bottle caps and plastic park benches.
“It's a win-win for everyone—the consumers can buy absorbent products without remorse; the towns can achieve local and state recycling targets and the waste companies have a new business,” he adds.
Fater was esblished in 1958 but has been involved in a joint venture with Procter & Gamble since 1992. Last year, its sales were about €1.15 billion and it manufactured 4.5 billion units. In addition to the Recall project, Fater improved its company's green profile over the years in a number of ways including a significant reduction in the weight of both its diapers and adult incontinence products as well as a reduction in packaging materials and energy consumption.