Recycle diapers to create energy, fertilizer and new materials

The "Happy Nappy" program of the French company Suez Environnement, recently launched, aims to make use of the thousands of used diapers that babies generate every year. Thanks to various treatments could be achieved to generate energy, fertilizer for plants and new materials from reused plastic.

Each baby needs about 6,000 diapers in its first 24 months of life, which means every year, in our country, hundreds of thousands of dirty diapers are thrown away. What if we could recycle them? It is precisely what this French company is carrying out through its subsidiary Sita.

The first thing to analyze is the composition of the diaper used. Of the total, most (between 50 and 70 percent) are organic waste, followed by plastics and fibers with between 10 and 20 percent and finally the absorbent polymers, which represent between 5 and 10 percent of the total.

For its recycling the first thing that is done is the crushing to separate the different parts, to later treat them independently.

Once separated each material receives a treatment. The organic waste goes to a purification system and sludge that will produce biogas and fertilizers for future use in agriculture. For its part, plastics would function as the raw material for the manufacture of new compounds.

As explained by Jean-Louis Chaussade, CEO of Suez Environnement, "the creation and positive results of this pilot project perfectly illustrate the synergies that exist between garbage and the water business, and how our technologies and capabilities can lead to creation of a new waste valorization scheme ".

Tests for a fiber package dedicated to precooked meals

The world is facing a steady increase in the consumption of precooked dishes. Beyond the consequences of this "diet" for human health, the packaging of such meals is very harmful to the environment. The black plastic used in pre-cooked packaging generates enormous problems of waste management since the lasers that process the waste to be recycled can not easily identify what type of material it is.

Consumers and producers, concerned about the impact of this type of packaging, agree to use more sustainable materials. The supermarkets have also agreed to gradually eliminate this type of packaging, a task in which a team of researchers and scientists financed by European funds will work.

A new tray designed by the Finnish container manufacturer Huhtamaki offers a viable alternative to black plastic. Developed in collaboration with the partners of the FRESH, Södra and SaladWorks project, the product is part of an effort to sell biological packaging for ready meals in the UK market.

The company tested its fiber-based packaging in May and June in two pre-cooked dishes of Italian cuisine. "We are confident that the new proposal will be well received and that it will be a turning point for the adoption of biological packaging in this segment," said Steve Davey de Huhtamaki in an article in the magazine "Packaging Europe". Recognizing the need for alternatives based on renewable materials, Huhtamaki is confident that the tests will lead to the adoption of biological packaging in this segment.

In a notice published on the website of the Finnish company it is explained that the new material has the texture of the board and is created with fiber derived from sources certified by the Forest Management Council. Created in 1993, this council works to ensure that forests around the world are managed in a socially and environmentally responsible manner.

Developed by Södra, partner of FRESH, this renewable material is called Durapulp and is a biocomposite based on a mixture of cellulose and polylactic acid (PLA) that does not include genetically modified organisms in its raw material. "It is a renewable and adequate alternative for storing sensitive products such as food," said Catrin Gustavsson, Senior Vice President of Innovation and New Business Opportunities in Södra.

The FRESH project (FRESH - Fully bio based and bio degradable ready meal packaging), which will last three and a half years until 2020, aims to generate innovative alternatives based on high quality cellulose to the trays of plastics derived from fossil fuels through a new lamination technology. The objectives of the project are to achieve a much lower environmental footprint (a CO2 reduction of more than 80%) during the life cycle of the project compared to other packaging materials based on fossil fuels. Its general objective is to offer a complete value chain, from the production of materials to the end user, in which the technical and economic feasibility of an alternative to the containers for pre-cooked meals is fully biological and biodegradable.

The final product of FRESH could offer important environmental, economic and even job creation advantages. It would also demonstrate that it is an element of change for the distributors, the catering companies -for example, airlines and home food services for the elderly- and missions in remote areas that cover both civilian and military needs.