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Waste Not
Diapers, Railway Ties Help Drive Forward the Circular Agenda

What do diapers and railway ties have in common? They’re two of the latest products to receive the circular treatment, helping businesses reimagine waste streams as resources and driving the economy towards a more sustainable, circular model.

Diapers are likely one of the last things one would consider recycling, but Fater, an Italian manufacturer of personal care and hygiene products, is striving to make the practice the new norm. At the recent EMBRACED Consortium, an EU-funded initiative that promotes the recycling of absorbent hygiene products, Fater announced that it had upgraded its diaper recycling technology to transform the single-use products into valuable raw materials.

The company — a joint venture of P&G and Gruppo Angelini — began recycling diapers backed in 2015, but the newfound support from EMBRACED represents a significant step forward for the initiative — and the shift towards a more circular economy.

According to Giovanni Teodorani, Recycling General Manager at Fater, the company received funding from the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking — a public-private partnership between the EU and the Bio-Based Industries Consortium — to realize the project. It was used to upgrade the technology at the company’s plant in Treviso, where diapers will be sanitized, separated and upcycled into secondary raw materials such as plastics, cellulose and absorbing materials.

The EMRACED meeting in Rome brings together companies to help drive forward the circular economy, with the aim of creating the capacity to transform recycled secondary raw materials from used diapers and other hygiene products into bio-products such as bio-plastics, fertilizers and high-end chemicals.

“At P&G we serve nearly five billion people around the world and have one of the strongest portfolios of trusted, quality and leadership brands. In order to continue serving the world’s consumers, we believe and have publicly committed to doing what is right and being a good corporate citizen,” said Roberto Marinucci, VP Global Baby Care, Wipes and Sustainability of P&G and Member of the Fater Executive Committee.

“P&G believe that diaper recycling is good for our consumers, good for the planet and good for business. It fits with our vision on zero waste. As a company committed to doing the right thing, we are taking leadership in this project. I am confident this project will help demonstrate how bio-based solutions can become a concrete in everyday life of EU citizens.”

Meanwhile, the Closed Loop Foundation (CLF) has entered into a strategic partnership with composite railway product manufacturer IntegriCo Composites Inc. to fund comprehensive recycling infrastructure and expand IntegriCo’s strategic sourcing programs in capturing increased volumes of landfill-bound plastics.

Founded in 2007, IntegriCo produces its products from 100 percent recycled plastics and has, to date, diverted over 70 million pounds of plastics from landfill. The partnership with CLF is a logical next step for the company.

“IntegriCo is turning what used to be a low value bale of mixed plastics into a higher-value infrastructure product, thereby improving the value of the recycling mix and ensuring that hard to recycle plastics don’t end up in the landfill or in waterways. We see this investment as helping unlock an important economic bottleneck in the recycling system,” said Rob Kaplan, CLF Managing Partner.

The investment made by CLF will allow IntegriCo to complete the company’s second manufacturing line at its new Sarepta, Louisiana manufacturing facility before the end of 2017, resulting in capacity of 250,000 rail cross ties annually and the consumption of over 65 million pounds of recycled plastics.

“This expansion will also permit the continued production of new products, including longer length rail ties and a recently redesigned composite grade crossing system,” said Scott Mack, CEO of IntegriCo. “This is an important step with a great partner to continue execution of IntegriCo’s strategy to produce at least one million rail ties annually by the year 2020.”