TerraCycle, a New Jersey-based company that recovers useful materials from used chewing gum and cigarette butts, plans to launch its disposable diaper recycling program in September. Chrissy Kadleck of Waste & Recycling News reports that the company’s recycling process would yield “material suitable for plastic lumber, pallets and outdoor furniture.”
In 2009, more than 3.8 million tons of disposable diapers were tossed into the municipal waste stream in the U.S. Disposable diapers contain various different kinds of materials, including polymers. These diapers are “the most complex waste stream known right now in the U.S.,” Ernie Simpson, Terracycle’s global vice president of research and development, told Waste & Recycling News.
He was tight-lipped about the details of the process, but noted to Kadleck that it had elements of standard processes in the recycling industry. The main steps would include collecting the diapers, cutting them up into small pieces, using various sterilization methods, and separating out the various compostable and recyclable materials. “We are 90 percent of the way there with only a small portion of the process yet to be completed. I expect that will happen in the first quarter of 2012,” Simpson said.
The company is planning to collect diapers from daycare centers and from homes via odor- and contaminant-proof shipping containers.
Simpson told Kadleck that the company is also working on similar processes for collecting and recycling used feminine hygiene products. Simpson explained that the materials used to make feminine hygiene products and disposable diapers are chemically similar, and the sterilization process would address blood-borne pathogens.
Source: “TerraCycle tries to ‘revolutionize’ disposable diapers,” Waste & Recycling News, 1/24/12
Image from Wikimedia Commons, used under Fair Use: Reporting.
Rachel Petkewich is a freelance science writer and editor. She has worked as a research scientist in the chemical industry and spent eight years as a staff writer and editor at various science journals and magazines, including Chemical & Engineering News.