TerraCycle, the New Jersey-based company that specializes in upcycling waste packaging into durable consumer products, will soon launch a program for disposable diapers, according to Waste & Recycling News.
Ernie Simpson, global vice president of research and development for Terracycle, says the company is 90 percent finished with the development of a continuous process for collecting, sterilizing and processing used diapers. Certain parts of the diaper will be compostable, and the remaining materials will be upcycled into plastic lumber, pallets and outdoor furniture.
Simpson expects the research and development to be completed in the first quarter of 2012 with a pilot program launching in September. The collection system will operate similar to other TerraCycle programs in which companies and individuals in “TerraCycle Brigades” are provided with containers to collect and ship the waste products.
For the pilot, Terracycle will reach out to a small network of childcare facilities currently participating in brigades for Huggies brand plastic packaging. Terracycle says it hopes to expand its partnership with Huggies to include the new diaper program.
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"[Recycling] used diapers was a pretty tall order. It’s solving the most complex waste stream known right now in the U.S. There is no more complicated waste stream than that," Simpson told Waste & Recycling News. "The collection and subsequent disposal [of diapers] in large cities is a tremendous burden. If they can be recycled into useable products, that is a bonus for just about any large city."
TerraCycle isn’t the only company working on a solution for disposable diapers. In September, Knowaste announced plans to build five recycling facilities in the UK.
TerraCycle´s research and development team also expects to complete within the next year processes for recycling feminine hygiene products, discarded chewing gum and cigarette butts.
Bart King is a PR consultant and principal of Cleantech Communications.