This week British Airways announced it was piloting a program to fuel part of its fleet with plastic-based household waste—including old baby diapers. The effort, which is being made in partnership with a renewable fuels company called Velocys, will not only
help British Airways meet its commitment to cut carbon emissions by 50% by 2050, but it will
also keep hundreds of thousands of plastic containers and baby diapers out of the landfills.
Efforts to find a second life for baby diapers have made some significant headway in recent
years as more companies aim to be more responsible in where their products end up. In June,
Unicharm struck a deal with Diaper Recycling Technology for a recycling system at its Diana
facility in Vietnam, and this is not the beginning of the company’s diaper recycling efforts. This
month, the Japanese company reported that it has been involved in diaper recycling efforts
since 2015, removing some plastic pulp and low-grade pulp from some diapers to be used as
low-grade fuel using an ozonation process to destroy waste organisms in the diaper.
The next step for Unicharm will be to run a trial recycling program in Shibushi City, Japan,
an area already well known for its ambitious recycling efforts. In partnership with the city
and local waste collection companies, Unicharm has begun collecting used disposable diapers
from homes and businesses and hopes to eventually expand these efforts domestically and
And, Unicharm is not alone in these efforts. Procter & Gamble’s Farè subsidiary has kept
about 800 tons of diaper waste out of Italian landfills per year, and Kimberly-Clark has been
working to establish diaper composting sites in New Zealand, Ireland, the U.K. and throughout Europe as part of a goal to keep more than 150,000 tons of post-consumer waste out of
landfills per year.
On the technology front, Diaper Recycling Technology has worked hard to develop an
economically viable recycling system that can help its owners generate a revenue stream
from old diapers, while companies like Velocys and Superfaiths develop a means to generate
fuel from them.
The strain that disposable products, like diapers, have put on landfills around the world
has been an ongoing concern for decades and it is great to see so many important companies
around the world make efforts to ease this strain. These efforts will surely become even more
important as the use of disposable nonwoven products extends into more markets and more
Giving Diapers a Second Chance