Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Could the Scourge of the Seas Help Defeat the Scourge of the Landfill?

We all know climate change and pollution are beginning to wreak havoc around the world in a variety of ways. In tropical and Mediterranean areas, higher oceanic acidity and warmer temperatures in recent years have created, among other things, a proliferation of pesky and increasingly invasive jellyfish, which are clogging up industrial piping systems, frustrating fishermen, and stinging and creeping-out beach-goers.

While the jellyfish themselves were likely the only ones in the world happy about their population explosion (aside, perhaps, from fans of jellyfish stir fry), an Israeli nanotech company called Cine’al Ltd. may have found a way to use it to our advantage, all while eliminating an equally pesky and invasive form of landfill waste.

The company is developing technology to break down jellyfish flesh and add nanoparticles to create a highly absorbent, biodegradable material called “Hydromash,” which can then be used in a variety of paper products including diapers, sponges, paper towels and even tampons.

“Jellyfish are marine creatures composed of 90 percent water and that live in water. Their bodies are formed from material that can absorb high volume of liquids and hold them without disintegrating or dissolving,” according to Capital Nano, an Israeli nano tech investor raising funds to scale up Cine’al. “The Hydromash absorbs more than several times its volume and biodegrades in less than 30 days (faster than any other bio-degradable products such as bio-degradable diapers made out of pulp.)”

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Disposable diapers are the third-largest single consumer item in landfills, and represent about 4 percent of solid waste — in a house with a child in diapers, disposables can make up to 50 percent of household waste, according to the Real Diaper Association.

“One-third of disposable waste in dumps consists of diapers,” Cine-al chairman and president Ofer Du-Nour told the Times of Israel. “In its first year, a newborn baby generates, on average, 70 kilos of diapers a year, maybe more.”

Cine’al is currently in discussions with partners in Korea and South Carolina, which they hope will result in the establishment of manufacturing plants near jellyfish collection sites, according to Green Prophet.

Previous attempts to mitigate the environmental impact of disposable diapers include an upcycling program from Terracycle; conversion into upholstery filling at a US Pampers facility by P&G, as one of its zero-waste initiatives; and a joint effort by BASF, Cargill and Novozymes to develop bio-based technologies to produce acrylic acid — a common ingredient in diapers and paints — from renewable materials. Presently, acrylic acid is produced by the oxidation of propylene derived from the refining of crude oil.

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