Friday, 20 February 2009

The right direction

A few days ago I commented on another blog:

If the government has to prop up industry in these lean times, why can’t it do it by supporting/promoting new recycling technology and manufacturing items from recycled materials? There must be so many relevant and useful skills suddenly out there in the job market - let’s use them!

Then today I read that there's to be a recycling plant specifically for disposable nappies and similar items. Based in Birmingham, it will take 36,000 tonnes of used nappies each year, recycle the plastic and fibres (making first tiles, and later cycle helmets among other things), and eventually also reclaim methane to use for electricity generation. It's not *quite* what I meant (the company is Canadian, and "creating 22 jobs" is not exactly mass-scale employment) but it's a start. The principle is there - let's make better use of a wider range of things we throw away.

Now, there is the argument that reusable nappies are better, and the counter-argument that all that washing makes them roughly equal to disposables (PDF). I've yet to be persuaded either way, and for me it's an academic question! But (and sorry if anyone finds this distasteful) the plant will also take incontinence materials - that's something I have never seen commented on before, but clearly nobody is suggesting "washables" for a problem that will surely increase with our ageing population. So while some see the plant as an annoying excuse for parents to continue to use disposables, let's look at the wider picture.

More initiatives like this, please...

(As a cyclist as well, I am not sure how well "It'll make cycle helmets" will help to sell the project, as that's another contested issue, but I guess the media like to grab on to quirky things for their headlines!)


  1. Oh gosh, I'm not sure about those helmets either!!
    And any possible emmissions-??

    About old people and incontinence - yes it has been brought up on Slovenian forums, haven't seen it discussed in more detail though.. My opinion is that with a healthy diet and lifestyle (& Kegel exercises more widely taught) & cleaner air (!!) a lot of that old-age incontinence could be avoided!!

    Also, the discussion on 'greener' nappies online mainly leans toward washable, as parents say noone expects to wash them all at 90°C and iron, as modern nappies are slightly different than 'old ones'.. And personally I agree that washable just make less waste!! (as for 'hassle for mommies' - well, nappy laundries exist too..)

    But do keep us posted on 'hemlmets from nappies' - am curious what would come of this.. Or is it just a 'statement' like 'drinking water from a pyrolysis plant' (when fact is some water from some plants was even more toxic with dioxins than emmissions!!)

  2. I think it's probably that the media picked up on cycle helmets as an "interesting" thing that might be produced. Another possible output was absorbent materials for use in pollution emergencies like oil spills/slicks. I'd also be interested to see more info on emissions, definitely. But overall, the idea of investing in technologies that do something useful with waste is a good one, I think.