Tuesday, 22 February 2022 11:41

100,000 used nappies pave the way for a greener road surface in Wales

More than 100,000 used nappies are being repurposed for a road resurfacing trial this month, with the backing of the Welsh Government, along a 1.4 mile stretch of the A487 between Cardigan to Aberystwyth. The new initiative is between eco-friendly baby care business Pura and nappy recyclers NappiCycle. 

The new roadway will contain more than 107,000 used nappies, finding a useful purpose for some of the 3 billion nappies annually disposed of in the UK. More than 400,000 tonnes of disposable nappy waste ends-up in landfill each year. Used nappies can take up to 500 years to degrade – massively outliving the babies they were used on.

nappy recycled roadway workmenFor the road resurfacing project, a total of 4.3 tonnes of recovered fibre from the nappies was added to the bitumen that glues together asphalt road surfaces. The "nappy-enhanced" asphalt is claimed to be even more durable than standard asphalt, but with a reduced carbon footprint.

Rob Poyer, founder of NappiCycle, developed a cost-effective process for recycling nappies in 2009. Used nappies are cleansed, and plastics and cellulose fibres separated for re-use. 100% of the soiled nappies are processed, so absolutely nothing is sent to landfill (even the urine extracted from the nappies is reutilised)!

The recovered cellulose can be repurposed not just for road surfacing, but for notice boards for schools and offices, panelling, under laminate flooring and other insulation.

The service is currently only available to parents in Wales, where it is funded by the local authority.

Baby care brand Pura, led by Guy Fennell, teamed up with NappiCycle in 2020. Already removing plastic from baby wipes, Pura's partnership with NappiCycle was a logical progression as Guy sought to find a more circular solution for wipes and nappy waste.

nappy recycled roadway materialTogether, Pura NappiCycle already prevents more than 800,000 nappies from being landfilled in Wales every single week. Guy Fennell's mission is to now bring nappy recycling to the entire UK, starting with a nappy recycling trial in Bristol which is set to launch in the coming months.

Commenting on the initiative, Guy said: "Pura provides parents with nappy change essentials that are kind to their baby and their planet, while still being affordable and convenient.

"Despite extensive research, the technology for the perfect eco-friendly disposable nappy unfortunately doesn't exist yet. As we seek that solution, we are determined to drive change and minimise the damage nappies are having on the planet. That's why it was crucial that we partner with NappiCycle and make nappy recycling a reality for all UK parents.

"The road resurfacing is just one fantastic example of how recycled nappies - that would have otherwise ended up in landfill - can be put to really good use."

Rob Poyer, NappiCycle founder, adds: "This type of road surface material has huge potential for producing more sustainable roadways with a lower carbon impact. With this trial we hope to demonstrate that waste nappies could be widely adopted in our roads, not just here in Wales, but right around the UK."