Efforts to find a second life for baby diapers have made some significant headway in recent years as more companies aim to be more responsible in where their products end up. In June, Unicharm struck a deal with Diaper Recycling Technology for a recycling system at its Diana facility in Vietnam, and this is not the beginning of the company’s diaper recycling efforts. This month, the Japanese company reported that it has been involved in diaper recycling efforts since 2015, removing some plastic pulp and low-grade pulp from some diapers to be used as low-grade fuel using an ozonation process to destroy waste organisms in the diaper.
The next step for Unicharm will be to run a trial recycling program in Shibushi City, Japan, an area already well known for its ambitious recycling efforts. In partnership with the city and local waste collection companies, Unicharm has begun collecting used disposable diapers from homes and businesses and hopes to eventually expand these efforts domestically and internationally.
And, Unicharm is not alone in these efforts. Procter & Gamble’s Farè subsidiary has kept about 800 tons of diaper waste out of Italian landfills per year, and Kimberly-Clark has been working to establish diaper composting sites in New Zealand, Ireland, the U.K. and throughout Europe as part of a goal to keep more than 150,000 tons of post-consumer waste out of landfills per year.
On the technology front, Diaper Recycling Technology has worked hard to develop an economically viable recycling system that can help its owners generate a revenue stream from old diapers, while companies like Velocys and Superfaiths develop a means to generate fuel from them.
The strain that disposable products, like diapers, have put on landfills around the world has been an ongoing concern for decades and it is great to see so many important companies around the world make efforts to ease this strain. These efforts will surely become even more important as the use of disposable nonwoven products extends into more markets and more geographies.