Three billion used nappies are discarded every year in the UK. One pioneering Welsh company is finding a use for them – laying roads and insulating homes.
For many years the dirty secret of parenthood is that many babies’ nappies will end up in landfills, with three billion used nappies discarded this way in the UK last year alone. But now, one Welsh innovator is working to fix this problem.
NappiCycle, based out of Swansea, has been collecting used nappies in South Wales for more than a decade in order to process them and turn them back into useful materials. In recent months, the waste recycler has seen its greatest success yet with 107,000 of its processed nappies being used to reinforce and strengthen a 1.4 mile stretch of road.
You won’t see any stray Pampers while driving between Cardigan and Aberystwyth however, as this eco company breaks the soiled diapers down into fiber, which is then used to make the road surface twice as strong.
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The business began as the brainchild of Rob Poyer in 2009 when he developed a process to refine waste nappies into other materials. The soiled waste product is cleaned with chemicals before the useful plastic and cellulose fibers are separated out to be re-purposed.
In the years since, Welsh nappies have been used to build noticeboards, insulate walls and laminate floors. Though this costs roughly 15 per cent more than incinerating them, the benefit of removing them from the environment is huge.
Because of NappiCycle’s commitment to diverting 100 per cent of what they collect from landfills, they are now used by every Local Authority in Wales
This local scheme diverts 800,000 nappies from being dumped every single week and has been such a success that it is now set to be trialled in Bristol as well.
These nappies’ second-life as a Welsh road came about through a partnership between the eco-recyclers and green baby care business Pura.
Together, their work and campaigning led to them getting the green light to use 4.3 tonnes of recycled nappy fiber to reinforce the bitumen used to make the road surface. This both reduces the road’s carbon footprint and makes it twice as strong as regular asphalt.
Commenting on the initiative, Guy said: “Despite extensive research, the technology for the perfect eco-friendly disposable nappy unfortunately doesn’t exist yet.
“As we seek that solution, we are determined to drive change and minimise the damage nappies are having on the planet. That’s why it was crucial that we partner with NappiCycle and make nappy recycling a reality for all UK parents.
“The road re-surfacing is just one fantastic example of how recycled nappies – that would have otherwise ended up in landfill – can be put to really good use.”
Rob Poyer, NappiCycle founder, added: “This type of road surface material has huge potential for producing more sustainable roadways with a lower carbon impact. With this trial we hope to demonstrate that waste nappies could be widely adopted in our roads, not just here in Wales, but right around the UK.”