Today’s dirty nappies will be transformed into tomorrow’s park benches under an Australian-first recycling scheme.
A plant to open next year in Nowra will sterilise the waste and recover valuable materials for reuse in products ranging from outdoor furniture to paper and cardboard products and pet litter.
More than 450,000 tonnes of absorbent hygiene waste – disposable nappies, continence aids and sanitary pads – go to landfill each year in Australia, producing significant carbon emissions. Plastics, wood fibre and absorbent polymers worth more $120 million to industry are buried in NSW every year.
Recycling company Relivit will collect the waste, processing 30,000 tonnes a year in Nowra. It plans to expand to Melbourne in 2015 and nationwide by 2018.
The company has contracts with aged care providers and is discussing partnerships with local councils in Sydney and the Illawarra.
About 5.6 million nappies are used in Australia each day. In the future, they could be collected from separate bins for households with young children or drop-off points at childcare centres, Mr Dunn said.
As the population grows and ages, the amount of absorbent hygiene waste will increase. The NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure predicts the number of people aged over 65 in Sydney will rise by 90 per cent between 2011 and 2031.
The NSW Environment Protection Authority welcomed Relivit’s initiative. ”Not attempting some recovery process for [this waste] means essentially there is a relatively short life for the resources used to manufacture and use them,” the director of waste and resource recovery, Steve Beaman, said.
Initial Hygiene, the market leader in hygienic waste collection, will send all its NSW waste to Relivit for recycling.
”We’re looking for initiatives that enable us to have far less of an environmental impact – this is one of the most significant we can find,” Alain Moffroid, Pacific managing director for parent company Rentokil Initial, said. ”If you think of what you start with, and the fact that you’re transforming that into a resource that has a market value … it’s absolutely brilliant.”