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Let’s Talk Trash: Knowaste Turns Dirty Diapers into Green ($)

Jace Shoemaker-Galloway | Monday November 9th, 2009 | 0 Comments

baby-in-diapersDid you know the average baby goes through 5,000 to 6,000 dirty diapers by the time he or she is potty trained?   That accounts for nearly one ton of waste per child.   Although disposable diapers are convenient, they also create a burden on our landfills.  Disposable diapers can take up to 500 years to decompose. And untreated human waste poses another environmental concern – the potential to contaminate groundwater resources.

So imagine being able to divert thousands of tons of dirty diapers from landfills on an annual basis.  That is exactly what Knowaste will soon be doing.  Beginning in May 2010, Knowaste Ltd., will open a new recycling facility in the United Kingdom.

It is estimated about 8 million disposable diapers are used on a daily basis in the United Kingdom.  Now that’s a lot of dirty diapers!  Disposable diapers consist of three parts: wood pulp, gel polymers and mixed plastic.  According to the company website, 98 percent of the disposable diaper or incontinence pad can be removed from the waste stream using their patented technology.

Here’s how it works.  Once the soiled products are collected and transported to the Knowaste facility, the products are sent to a shredder that breaks them apart.  They are washed, sanitized, deactivated and mechanically separated into plastic components or organic residue.  A special chemical treatment is used to deactivate the polymers.

Plastic materials are removed, filtered, cleaned and compressed into small pellets. The plastic is then recycled into a variety of products including shoe insoles, vinyl siding, wallpaper, bicycle helmets and roofing tiles, to name a few.

Non-recyclable waste is converted into green energy, which will power the facility or will be sold to the national grid. The water used during the process is treated and reused again.

Besides diapers from nurseries, the new Birmingham plant will also accept adult hygiene waste from nursing homes and hospitals.  The Birmingham facility is the first of five proposed plants in the UK.

Established in 1989, Knowaste recycles other absorbent hygiene products besides diapers – bed-liners, adult incontinence and feminine hygiene products.  The company’s main recycling facility is located in Toronto, Canada.

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