The Future: Energy-Producing Diapers

As I was listening to the radio the other day, I heard a very interesting report on diaper recycling/fuel production. Yes, you read correctly. This company in the UK is recycling soiled diapers and producing green fuel. As part of the recycling process, the materials are sterilized, separated into individual components which include organic residue, plastic and super absorbent polymers. These components are then recycled into plastic wood, plastic roofing tiles, absorption materials, recycled paper products, among others. What really caught my attention was the production of green energy! If I heard correctly, six megawatts of green energy were produced in the recycling process. One was used by the company to operate the plant and the other five megawatts were sold to the local grid. Go green! That’s a great way to reduce even further the amount and toxicity of our garbage.

Personally, when my children were babies, I didn’t consider which was the most environmentally friendly option when choosing diapers.  I just selected the most convenient method for our family: disposable diapers. It’s interesting that several months ago, in one of our Questions of the Week on diaper selection, we had a very interesting green conversation going with well over 170 people weighing in on which is the best option for the environment, disposable or cloth diapers. There are many articulate arguments in favor of both options.  At least, companies like this one are finding creative ways to reduce waste while having the added bonus of producing green energy.

As I was reading up on the issue for this blog, I learned that it can take 450 years for a disposable diaper to disintegrate in the ocean, and over 500 years in landfills. While we all should make an effort to adopt more environmentally practices to reduce waste, it gives me hope that at least in the case of disposable diapers there is some hope to go green. So, will we be talking about baby power at a recycling center near you? That might be the way of the future.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.