Image credit: Inga Munsinger Cotton, used under Creative Commons license.
The Brit in me bristles to use the term "diaper", but if I said "nappy", I suspect many would have no clue what I am talking about. But, whatever you call them, disposable diapers/nappies are a huge source of waste. Given that not everybody is likely to shift to cloth diapers anytime soon, is composting a viable alternative? While the pros and cons of composting diapers at home is a tricky subject, one New Zealand company has already been specializing in composting disposable diapers (they call them nappies too - and I will for the remainder of this article). Now that technology looks set to be exported to the UK.
Edie.net reports that Envirocomp, the company responsible for the New Zealand diaper composting facilities, has been hired to provide its composting technology to a new nappy processing facility in the UK. By shredding nappies, separating out plastics, and composting them with green waste, the facility breaks down nappies in a surprisingly short amount of time:
As part of the Envirocomp process, which has been developed by Zealanders Karen and Karl Upston in collaboration with biological treatment facility HotRot Organic Solutions using its exiting composting technology, the nappies are composted over a 14-16 day period. During this time the process separates and removes the plastic, making the compost free of pathogens and suitable for horticultural and agricultural purposes.
Given that both cloth and disposable nappies have their own, significant environmental impacts, it would be fascinating to see a true life-cycle analysis between composted disposables and their reusable counterparts. Either way, composting our sanitary waste looks way preferable to burying it in the landfill.