When you think of alternative energy, the first thought that typically comes to mind is wind and solar. However, there’s a slightly more unusual alternative source of energy out there that several businesses are starting to capitalize on. It turns out that elderly individuals who deal with incontinence have the ability to provide an all new source of energy. And that new energy source is adult diapers.
This is what the Japanese automation firm Super Faiths firmly believes. Adult diapers are a growing industry, and Super Faiths has capitalized upon this growth by developing a series of recycling machines that transform adult diapers into fuel for biomass stoves and boilers.
Super Faiths recognized the fact that adult diapers from hospitals and nursing homes were occupying significant amounts of space in local landfills. Now the company’s SFD Recycle System machine provides a solution for that issue.
This is how it works—a diaper is dropped into the SFD Recycle System machine where it is shredded, dried, and sterilized. The result is a bacteria-free material that can be used for producing fuel pellets.
Super Faiths installed two SFD machines at a hospital located in Tokyo’s Machida area where it takes in an astounding 1,400 pounds of used adult diapers per day. During the conversion process, bundles of diapers are wrapped in a plastic bag before being loaded into the machine. After the processing period (about a day) material for the fuel pellets are produced.
The processed diapers transform into a truly unique material. In terms of dimensions, the new fibrous material is around one-third the weight and volume of the original bag of diapers. When the material has been separated and processed it can be used to heat home interiors, water, and roads.
As of this time, Super Faiths offers three SFD models that can handle various capacities—330lbs, 661lbs, and 1,102lbs respectively.
Super Faiths offers a revolutionary service for the country of Japan because recent birthrates have been extraordinarily low. The production of baby diapers has dropped by almost 2% since 2008. On the other hand, adult diaper sales have increased by nearly 7% in the same amount of time.
LifeCycle launched in West Bromwich, right outside of Birmingham. The machine uses a combination of mechanical separation and chemical treatment to convert adult diapers, amongst other absorbent hygiene waste products, into Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF). This new product is then distributed throughout the U.K. and Europe to be used as an alternative fuel source. RDF is commonly burned in biomass plants to produce hot water and electricity for the National Grid, private companies, and municipal power systems.
LifeCycle was launched because PHS group was aware of the fact a large number of adult diapers were being sent to landfills. They also recognized that this was more than a UK problem; it was a worldwide problem.
PHS Group is the largest company in the U.K. that gathers absorbent waste, and they’ve been doing it for more than eight years. In the beginning, PHS Group simply picked up diapers and other waste products as a standard part of their service, but over time they realized they could do more than just dump their waste into landfills. PHS serves over 90,000 customers and covers over 300,000 locations across England and Ireland. Their customer base includes nursing homes, baby nurseries, movie theaters, office buildings, small businesses, and pubs.
To take on this massive job, PHS employs an arsenal of 700 large waste collection vehicles to collect sanitary bins from the various locations they service. When the bins have been picked up and loaded into the waste collection vehicles, they’re taken to a waste transfer station and emptied. From there the waste is bulked together into bags and shipped off to the LifeCycle plant.
The waste products are then shredded, and all liquid and other content within the diapers are drained away into the normal sewage system. The remaining plastic and paper material are then converted into RDF which is then shipped off to be used as energy.
Once this process was refined and proven to work, PHS Group has teamed up with the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences located at the University of Birmingham to improve upon the process even more. PHS has made has made it their mission to be as transparent as possible to convince customers their waste is truly being put to use.
Many of PHS Group’s customer base are genuinely concerned their waste products are having a negative impact on the environment. With the solution of converting diapers and other absorbent waste products into RDF, not only is PHS Group minimizing the negative impact on the environment, but they’re also helping their clients achieve their own environmental targets.
Super Faiths in Japan and PHS Group in the United Kingdom aren’t the only companies out there that recognize the potential of used diapers. Though unusual, adult diapers have indeed found a unique use as an alternative energy source. The process is still relatively new, so we can only wait to see what the future holds for this bold new endeavor.