DECIDING how to dispose of used nappies, tampons and incontinence pads just became easier thanks to a new commercial scale process launched in the UK that turns the tricky waste into fuel.
According to the Nappy Alliance, the UK alone throws away 3bn disposable nappies each year. The current options for disposing of such hygiene waste products are incineration or sending them to landfill, but neither option is ideal. Burning wet waste is expensive due to the energy required to dry it out. Meanwhile, sending such waste to landfill is an environmental concern as it takes hundreds of years for the waste to decompose, and authorities are pushing up landfill tariffs to discourage this route of disposal.
PHS Group, which collects hygiene waste from businesses, started operating what it says is a more environmentally responsible process this week at its plant in West Bromwich, that turns the waste into fuel that can be burned in biomass plants to produce power. The plant has an operating capacity of 45,000 t/y.
The waste is first screened to remove unwanted materials such as glass. It is then shredded and squeezed with the liquid disposed of as sewage. The remaining dry waste is then compressed into bales and sold as fuel. PHS declined to share more detailed information about its process.
Justin Tydeman, CEO of PHS, said: “Hygiene products are an essential part of many of our everyday lives but disposing of them has always been an issue. We have spent almost a decade refining the LifeCycle process and we now have a viable option for diverting hygiene waste products away from landfill. For the first time, we can all enjoy the benefits that the products bring and know that they are disposed of in an environmentally responsible way.”
Asked what challenges the company has had to overcome in the past ten years to commercialise its process, a spokesperson pointed to the difficulty of making a super-absorbent material release liquid.
“If you think about how good nappy, sanitary and incontinence products are today, we need to make them do the reverse of what they are actually designed to do. This is a key challenge that we have overcome,” she said.
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