Very nappy solution to waste
Last year a British recycling company, Knowaste, opened the first facility in the world that recycles used absorbent products, such as nappies for babies and adults and feminine hygiene products.
Costing R97 million, the plant recycles absorbent products from hospitals, nursing and retirement homes and local authorities. The plant is expected to save 110 000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions a year.
The chief executive of the company, Roy Brown, said it was incumbent on society to come up with solutions to the ever-growing waste problem created by the products.
“When these products go to landfill they also absorb an enormous amount of water.”
Brown calculated that with SA’s population of 45 million people, more than 700 000 tons of absorbent waste, such as nappies, would be going to landfills every day.
“In the UK it costs residents £8 (R97) to send waste to landfill and a £66 penalty if it is delivered directly to the landfill site,” he said.
“This is the only way to encourage recycling and curb society from just throwing these things away.
“I would imagine in South Africa it’s cheaper to throw something away rather than take the trouble to recycle it.”
He said instead of growth in the use of children’s nappies, there had been huge growth in the use of adult nappies, as people were living longer.
The recycling process works as follows:
l Used nappies, adult incontinence and feminine hygiene products (such as sanitary towels) are collected and transported to the plant.
l The process sterilises the products, and deactivates and mechanically separates the individual components, such as organic residue, plastic and super-absorbent polymers.
l The reclaimed products can then be made into plastic wood, plastic roofing tiles, absorption materials, recycled paper products and used for green energy.
Brown said interest had been expressed from SA and the company was looking forward to bringing the technology to the country.