Startup Friday: Closing the Loop Between Soiled Diapers and Soil


I found a new favorite start-up today: Earth Baby.  Three Bay Area families with babies were disgusted at the amount of diaper waste they were producing.   Earth Baby was created to solve that problem by providing, collecting and composting compostable diapers for families with newborn babies throughout the Bay Area.  Their singular mission is to keep disposable baby diapers out of the landfill.  One baby creates about 10 pounds of diaper waste each week!  And even if your city composts, it does not accept human waste.  Cloth diapers are another solution, however they require rigorous laundering which uses much more energy than Earth Baby’s composting solution.

Earth Baby is itself still in diapers.  Launching in January of 2009 with 17 customers, Earth Baby now serves 700 customers in the area and composts nearly 7,000 pounds of baby waste each week.   “We are building our business on word of mouth alone,” Earth Baby CEO Mark Siminoff told me.   And already the company is profitable.  In start-up land, breaking even within a year of launch is certainly noteworthy, even brag-worthy.

So how does it work?

Earth Baby sells compostable diapers (among other biodegradable complementary products), and then picks up the soiled diapers on a weekly basis.  For $29.99 per month customers get weekly drop-off and pickup of their diapers.

The diapers are composted at a local commercial facility (Siminoff would not disclose which one), where they are composted using a process known as Aerated Static Pile Composting.  The piles must be monitored to make sure they reach and maintain a temperature of at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit for the course of 14 weeks.  This temperature is achieved naturally through the composting process, and no additional energy is needed to heat the pile.  This process ensures that any viruses or unwanted bacteria in the human waste are killed.  Note this is not something you could do in the typical American backyard, especially at 10 pounds a week in volume,  hence the need for services like Earth Baby’s.

The resulting compost is sold as topsoil for use on golf courses, large scale landscaping projects, and roadside agricultural projects among other things.

Developing the infrastructure for this service has been a key challenge and Siminoff mentioned that their current growth rate of 60 to 70 new customers a month is “faster than is comfortable.”  Maintaining an excellent customer experience has been their top priority.   Siminoff plans to open a second location in California this year and a few more in 2011.

I think this is a no-brainer.  For families that can afford $360 per year to divert nearly 500 pounds of diaper waste from the landfills, this makes perfect sense to me.

What do you think?  Would you use Earth Baby’s service? Why or why not?

Amie runs Cobblestone Solutions, LLC, a consultancy focusing on business development, marketing, communications and strategy for mission driven companies. Previously, Amie served as Director of Business Development for Viv (a Bay Area environmental start-up), Program Manager for Social Venture Technology Group (a boutique consulting firm focused on measuring social and environmental impact), and Associate Consultant at Bain & Co (a global management consulting firm). She is particularly interested in innovations that reduce waste, altering consumer behavior for good, and leveraging the power of business to solve the climate crisis. You can read more from her on her blog, on, and on JustMeans.

2 responses

  1. I think that not only does this save the planet, but it provides a service. New mom's have a hard time getting to the store and while you can live without milk for a day, try going just one day without diapers!
    Hats off to Earth Baby!

  2. I applaud them for the service they are providing. As a cloth diaper Mama I use compostable diapers whenever we are away from home and I can't launder. I have found them a great solution. I only foresee one issue and that is the price of the compostable inserts. I don't know what they are selling, but I have found compostable diapers to be quite expensive ($15 for 32 inserts) and that might be a deterrent for many families. Hopefully the popularity of this mentality will grow enough so that the price of compostable diapers will get down to a range the general public can afford. Personally I think the cities need to get on board, because as long as people have to pay for this service they will use their “free” garbage can. Maybe if people had to pay for throwing away those diapers they would be more interested in other options. Sad to say, but in America the pocketbook is still king and people will serve that master above all others.

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