The nappy waste problem

SGS Australia Pty Ltd
Tuesday, 03 May, 2005

Used by approximately 91% of parents, a single disposable nappy can take as long as 500 years to decompose in landfill. Many Australians are concerned about the effect this has on the environment. However, up until now there has been little done to reduce this potentially hazardous waste stream.

Australians are using 800 million disposable nappies per year, ending up as 145,000 cubic metres of landfill. That would fill the MCG at least three times over each and every year. MyPlanet Recycling is not only able to reduce those landfill figures, but provides the extra benefit of turning the nappy waste into recycled plastic and paper products.

The plastics from the reclaimed nappies will be sent to Repeat Plastics where they will find a new life in a variety of products including park benches, jetty planking, signage and bollards. The fibrous wood pulp will be used by Amcor in the production of numerous white cardboard products.

The recycling process consists of a batch processor and a continuous fibre processing system.

The process begins with loading the nappies into the batch processor, along with the chemicals for sanitation and SAP (super absorbent polymers) deactivation. As the processor turns, it shreds the nappies and exposes the contents to the chemicals. Water is continuously pumped into and extracted from the unit, a process which continuously removed the fibre, deactivated SAP and waste. During this cycle, the plastic remains inside the processor.

At the end of the cycle the washed plastic is extracted, baled and sold to Repeat Plastics where it is turned into a variety of products.

The remaining materials are directed into the continuous part of the process for fine screening and cleaning to produce a good quality pulp. The pulp is then thickened and sent to Amcor to be used in the production of numerous grade paper products.

The water is clarified in a dissolved air flotation (DAF) tank and recycled in the facility as dilution. Waste diverted from the screen and cleaner, along with the sludge extracted by the DAF, is dewatered and becomes suitable for composting and future use as a fertiliser for non-food-type agriculture.

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