The most common methods of waste disposal are land filling and incineration or composting which pose many environmental concerns. Landfill is generally considered the worst option for the environment as it is a waste of resources and methane from it is also a potent greenhouse gas (21 times more potent than CO2). Incineration is not a viable option because it destroys valuable materials that could be recycled into new products; it doesn’t provide an incentive for reducing waste and it creates pollution. In addition, a nappy has a kilo joule (KJ) value of between 4 and 6. In order to be considered a source of fuel by the EU, an item must have a KJ value of 11 or better.
All materials (even the ones that no one wants to discuss) are destined to become waste at one time or another and every production process generates some form of waste. The main strategic focus for preventing waste production should be reducing the environmental impact of that waste and the products that will become waste.
Lifecycle thinking requires greater knowledge of the impact of resource use on waste generation and management. Nappies, adult incontinence and feminine hygiene products which are known as Absorbent Hygiene Products (AHPs) go straight to the landfill or the incineration facilities along with the other waste.
Hence, landfill and incineration methods can’t handle the massive waste streams that are generated globally. A recycling strategy should aim to promote the recycling sector in order to reintroduce waste into the economic cycle in the form of quality products, while at the same time minimizing the negative environmental impact of doing so. The option of recycling AHPs is also possible now. Knowaste, AHP waste recycling specialist, has recently opened in West Bromwich the UK’s first-ever facility for recycling nappies, feminine hygiene and adult incontinence products. This with four more planned over four years, would be able to process 36,000 tonnes annually.
The Knowaste technology is used to clean, treat, recycle and recover energy from AHPs. The innovative, efficient, cost-effective and environmentally sensitive patented process deactivates the SAP and extracts plastic recyclate from the AHPs. The remaining cellulose fibre can be cleaned sufficiently for reuse or gasified to create electricity.
• Diversion of untreated human waste from landfills, thereby reducing the contamination of underground water supplies
• 98% of nappy waste is diverted from landfill thereby dramatically reducing landfill gases, the main constituents of which are methane and carbon dioxide, both commonly known as green house gases, which form a surrounding layer around the earth trapping in heat
• The plastic components and organic residue from the nappies are reused or recycled
• The plastic is recycled into building products such as plastic wood, roof tiles, sidings and decking
• The organic residue is gasified to create green energy or it can also be used as a thickener for industrial products
• Enables local authorities and healthcare and daycare providers to face up to the challenges of ever tougher environmental legislation and increasing costs of sending waste to landfill
Knowaste can customise a recycling facility to meet the needs of a particular community or region through a large or small scale recycling facility. The process involves three key stages:
1. AHPs are collected and transported to a Knowaste plant.
2. The Knowaste process sterilizes the AHP material, deactivates and mechanically separates the individual components: organic residue, plastic and super absorbent polymers.
3. The reclaimed components can then be made into recycled products such as: Plastic wood, Plastic roofing tiles, Absorption materials, Process sweeteners, Recycled paper products and Green energy.
Absorbent Hygiene Products consist of three components: mixed plastic, wood pulp and super absorbent gel polymers. These components vary by product type, but are basically the same for all AHPs.
AHPs take 500 years to decompose and they contain human waste leading to contamination