Why throw out all the diapers and sanitary products when you can use them to create free energy! Waste-management company, PHS Group has developed a new patented process that can use absorbent hygiene products like baby diapers and incontinence pads to create electricity for over 90,000 households, schools, offices, and retirement homes all across the United Kingdom and Ireland. PHS says that it receives over 45,000 tons of the material per year, and their plant in the Midlands is already converting 15 percent of this waste into the compressed bales that are burned to run power stations.
There are many refuse-derived fuel power plants in Europe, but none of them uses diapers, tampons, and their ilk since the moisture is trickier to remove and requires more money and effort. But dumping them in landfills is not a sustainable solution as it takes decades to decompose.
“Hygiene products are an essential part of many of our everyday lives but disposing of them has always been an issue,” Justin Tydeman, CEO of the PHS Group, told Guardian.
PHS starts by shredding and squeezing the material and then disposes off the waste liquid like sewage. The left-over dry bales are tossed into the fire to run the power plant.
PHS Group’s system is now under scrutiny by the University of Birmingham. The impacts of this process on the surrounding environment is also being tested out to find its feasibility.
“Whether or not it turns out to be a major source of energy in itself, the key thing is we find a good way to handle what is a complex and growing waste stream,” Tydeman said. “We don’t want this stuff just going into the ground.”
“The great thing about life today is people are living longer, but what comes with that is often incontinence issues. We want this to be a growing issue, because we want people to live longer.”
Disposable nappies and hygiene products already present an enormous waste disposal challenge; 3 billion of them are thrown away per year in the UK only. Many other companies are also looking to cash on this by recycling the waste into things such as cat litter, insulation material, and fertile soil.
Who knew human waste could be this useful!