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Nappies and adult incontinence products have mixed plastic makes up the inner and outer layers. Wood pulp inside the nappy, cushions and wicks the moisture away from the skin and towards the inner core. Super absorbent polymers and gel-like capsules are located in the inner core, swelling and absorbing the moisture. All of these individual components of a disposable nappy or adult incontinence product can and should be recycled, effectively preventing an endless stream of negative environmental impacts associated with their disposal.


Used disposable nappies, adult incontinence and feminine hygiene products are collected and transported by a waste hauler to a Knowaste processor or plant. The Knowaste process sterilizes the AHP material and mechanically separates the individual components so the wood pulp and plastic can be recycled. Up to 98% of a used disposable nappy can be removed from the trash stream.

The plastics in nappies and/or adult incontinence products can be used in the production of plastic wood, roof shingles and vinyl wood sidings. The fibre and super absorbent polymers can make biogas or green energy or can be used as a thickener for industrial products.

• AHPs begin the recycling process by entering an autoclave that break them apart and sterilizes them. From here, the nappies are sent on to a pulper to begin processing.

• The next step washes the material and exposes it to a special chemical treatment to deactivate the super absorbent polymers. At the completion of this washing process, the plastic materials are removed and sent to a separate device for processing.

• Plastic components are again filtered and cleaned in a final washing cycle.

• The plastic is then compressed into small pellets that can be sold for easy reuse.

• Remaining parts of the absorbent hygiene product enter a screening process that captures any remaining traces of plastic and other organic material.

• To conserve resources throughout the recycling process, water is recaptured from each wash cycle and sent to an internal treatment device for clarification. The water is then reused in the Knowaste system.

• The remaining organic waste is dried and used to create Green Energy.

Knowaste’s recycling technology can be customised to support a small demonstration project in a single community or scaled-up to service a regional recycling program. This flexibility allows the company to market to a diverse and growing group of interests including waste management companies, local authorities, product manufacturers, hospitals, senior care facilities and many more.

AHP recycle model in UK

Roy Brown, CEO of Knowaste, during the inauguration said: “We are developing partnerships with local authorities and their waste contractors to recycle domestic AHP waste in the future and our plant here in the Midlands and those intended for Scotland, the West and London will enable both commercial operators and local authorities to further cut carbon, increase recycling and divert waste from landfill.”

The AHPs for the West Midlands facility are being delivered to the site for processing by local, regional and national commercial waste operators, including OCS/Cannon Hygiene, PHS All Clear and Initial Rentokil. These operators collect this waste from washrooms, hospitals, nursing facilities and child care nurseries.

Mike Drake, Specialist Services Divisional Director at OCS, said the company will be responsible for delivering thousands of tonnes of AHP waste to the plant in Sandwell.

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