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Parents know that even the “environment friendly” diaper options available on the market are not always the most sustainable options. Cloth diapers are costly, and many parents claim that they’re harder to clean — and that in doing so, their energy and water bills increase, creating a different sort of waste.
Disposable diapers still offer convenience and comfort for parents and their children, and with progress being made in the way of diaper recycling globally, it looks like the purchase of these diapers could eventually become a guilt-free experience. That’s good news for moms and dads everywhere — there’s enough of a stench in dealing with diapers without having to factor in their environmental toll.
One thing that might surprise you, since parents rarely read the operating instructions on their diaper packages, is that you’re actually supposed to toss any fecal matter down the toilet and only throw away the disposable diaper itself. Now, a U.K. recycling plant is rewriting those rules, because it’s actually a diaper’s organic matter that has the greatest benefit. Yes, you know where I’m headed here; we’re talking about using poop as an environmental alterative again, and this time it comes from babies and will be used for energy.
It’s estimated that about 30 billion diapers are purchased in the United States alone each year, a number that likely translates similarly in Canada and the U.K. where this new recycling plant is set to start turning poop into a sustainable resource. Instead of allowing each of these diapers to sit in a landfill for 300 to 500 years, the new sustainable energy plant that will begin operating in Birmingham is trying something different. The goal is to convert the 2 percent of each diaper that is “organic waste” (ie. baby poop) into a green biofuel. The other 98 percent of the diaper will be converted into reusable pulp and plastic to create sustainable and recycled products, following a process of drying and sterilizing.
The diaper recycling energy project is the brainchild of two U.K. companies,Versus Energy and Knowaste. It will be the first diaper recycling plant in England, and the only one of its kind in the rest of the world that’s being created exclusively for this purpose. In the United States, companies like Cleantech Biofuels focus on turning all sorts of waste into energy and ethanol, including diapers, using an incinerator. There are others, as well, that use dirty diapers for building materials, among other things.
This U.K. diaper recycling plant brings a lot of the hope for the future if it becomes an emerging trend. Parents can sleep better at night knowing that their diaper choices aren’t causing environmental harm, and everyone else can embrace the green energy source and begin to learn that not all poop stinks.