Trial solution for aged care waste problem

Monday, 20 March, 2023

Trial solution for aged care waste problem

Used incontinence products from residential aged care make up half of the landfill waste in the sector. In the search for more environmentally sustainable disposal solutions, operators hit a stumbling block with no suitable options available. Essity, which manufactures and supplies global incontinence brand TENA, launched a large-scale trial to find a better way.

Rochelle Lake leads Essity’s Project Divert, an industry collaboration that is assessing the suitability of pyrolysis technology to dispose of incontinence products during a six-week trial funded by the Commonwealth Government National Product Stewardship Investment Fund.

Lake said when customers started asking for a better solution than landfill, she and her team explored what the waste industry could offer. It turned out no one in the sector had a viable alternative.

Estimates suggest that the amount of absorbent hygiene product waste produced by adults could be up to 10 times that produced by infants by 2030.

“We have an aging population in this country and incontinence product use is rising, so finding a way to deal with this waste is critical,” Lake said.

The Project Divert trial, which launched in early February, is based at the Med-X Healthcare Solutions facility in regional Victoria. It uses pyrolysis technology developed in Victoria by Earth Systems, which heats waste materials in the absence of oxygen, meaning lower emissions than traditional incineration. The waste is then converted to a biochar that may have several commercial applications.

The trial involves 10 waste collection sites across Victoria and will process approximately 16 tonnes of waste over six weeks.

One of the participants in the trial is Arcare Knox Aged Care in Wantirna South, a 115-resident facility that uses more than 1200 incontinence products each week.

CEO Colin Singh said the facility is “keen” to find a more environmentally responsible and cost-effective way to deal with incontinence product waste.

When the trial concludes, TENA and Essity will assess the feasibility of a more permanent solution.

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