The Nappy Alliance supports new research and development around the recycling of disposable nappies. However, nappy recycling plants are not widespread and have historically had limited success.
There are currently no nappy recycling facilities operating in the UK. Even if these sites were to develop it would take some time for these facilities to account for a notable proportion of UK nappy waste. One site set up in West Bromwich to recycle nappies failed after only eighteen months because of issues collecting feed source, and an inability to find buyers for its final product.
A new nappy recycling plant has developed in Italy. Nonetheless, this is the first plant of its kind and unproven on a large scale. In fact, sale of the output from nappy recycling is currently against EU regulations.
Even if recycling disposable nappies was a viable option, accurate data on the amount of energy used per tonne of recyclate produced should be assessed. This is extremely important as it will ultimately add to the carbon footprint of disposable nappies within their lifecycle. Any percentage of the product that is still sent to landfill after being through the process should also be disclosed. Parents have a right to be provided with the facts to allow them to make informed decisions as to whether or not such schemes actually represent a benefit to the environment.
In view of this, we believe that the UK cannot solely rely on nappy recycling technologies to reduce the amount of plastic waste generated in the environment by disposables.