Today, more than 96 per cent of parents use disposable diapers (verses cloth) due to convenience. A child in diapers will generate approximately one tonne of diaper waste prior to being toilet trained. The Sierra Club estimated that 18 billion disposable diapers are generated annually in the United States, using up four per cent of landfill space (according to U.S. EPA). The Greater Toronto Area generates approximately 102 tonnes of diapers per day, 37,230 tonnes per year. The Region of Peel alone generates about 32 tonnes of diapers per day or 11,680 tonnes a year (based on the Region’s 2006 estimate of babies in its area). And this doesn’t include the large (and growing) number of aging people using absorbent hygiene products (AHP) of various kinds. The number of people age 65 and over has tripled to a record 420 million worldwide, with more elderly people dependent on disposable personal care products.
What does your family or community generate? Small Planet Inc. is a Mississauga company that offers residential pick-up of disposable baby diapers using the Knowaste AHP recycling technology. The company has a calculator on its website (www.smallplanetinc.com) for estimating the diaper waste generated by an individual or community.
Disposable incontinents may take up to 500 years to decompose in a landfill. Diapers constitute one of the largest single household (as well as institutional) categories going straight to landfills, incinerators or composting facilities without any effort to divert or recycle them.
By recycling one child’s diapers, we will save: three trees that would need to be cut down to acquire virgin pulp, 7,500 litres of water utilized in the tree pulping process, and a year’s worth of CO2 emissions from an average car.
Now, there is a solution to this problem: Ontario-based Knowaste’s recycling system. Established in 1989, Knowaste operates in Canada, the United States, the Netherlands, Germany, UK, Japan, Korea Israel, and Australia). The company has patented technologies for the recycling of absorbent hygiene products, including disposable baby diapers, incontinence products and disposable bed liners, into sanitized reusable paper pulp and plastic components.
The Knowaste process is simple and effective. The Knowaste process sanitizes the diaper material and uses a water and mechanical system to separate the individual components so the wood pulp and plastic can be recycled. Human waste is separated and treated through the local sewage system. Up to 98 per cent of a used disposable diaper or incontinence product can thus be removed from the waste stream. High-quality wood pulp and plastic are now available for recycling.
1. Used diapers and/or adult incontinence products are generated. The materials are collected and transported to a Knowaste processor or plant. (In Canada, the only plant is in Mississauga, Ontario.)
2. Used disposable diapers begin the recycling process by entering a shredder that starts to break them apart. From here, the diapers are sent on to a pulper to begin processing.
3. The next step sanitizes the diaper material and exposes it to a special chemical treatment to deactivate the super-absorbent polymers. At the completion of this washing process, the plastic materials are removed and sent to a separate device for processing.
4. Plastic components are again filtered and cleaned in a final washing cycle. The plastic is then compressed into small pellets that can be sold for easy reuse.
5. Remaining parts of the diaper enter a screening process that captures any remaining traces of plastic and other organic material.
6. The fibres continue to go through another fine mechanical washing, cleaning and screening process. This produces a clean, long-length fibre that can be used in a myriad of products. The clean fibre is an excellent quality that is baled and sold for reuse on the open market.
Where are diapers going for disposal in your community?
In Southern Ontario, diapers are picked up from residents and institutions by Small Planet in Mississauga. Their trucks travel the Greater Toronto Area and east to Oshawa, north to Barrie, south to Niagara and as far west as Guelph and Kitchener. The pulp is reused and the plastic may be incorporated in products like plastic lumber.
The Knowaste process
1. Feed Conveyors
2. KDP Machine
3. Plastic Baler
4. Pulp Screening and Cleaning
5. Pulp Washer
6. DAF Clarifier
7. Pulp Baler
Jayne Pilot is CEO of Pilot Performance Resources Management Inc., in Brampton, Ontario. Contact Jayne at firstname.lastname@example.org