Reduce / Reuse / Recycle

March 20, 2013


Used Disposable Adult Diapers Being Recycled to Treat Soil, Grow Cotton

Keywords: Reduce / Reuse / Recycle University / Research institute 

An event called Cotton Harvest Festival 2012 was held on October 27, 2012, in a cotton field in Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture, in southern Japan, by a committee promoting collaboration between Fukuoka University, Koran Women's Junior College, and the Japanese Red Cross's Kyushu International College of Nursing, as part of an environmental project to recycle disposable "incontinence products" (diapers, protective underwear, etc.) for the elderly.

In the project, led by Professor Yasushi Matsufuji of the Department of Civil Engineering at Fukuoka University, the research team developed a method to utilize used incontinence products in the growing of cotton. First, the used disposable products are separated into low-quality pulp and other materials, and then the low-quality pulp material is used as an aid for soil enhancement. About 100 people, from children to seniors, participated in the Cotton Harvest Festival, where they enjoyed studying the photosynthesis process of plants and the recycling of waste, along with experiencing the harvesting of cotton.

As the elderly population grows, the amount of these products used and disposed has also been increasing, and dealing with these is becoming a heavy load on local municipalities. For the first time in Japan, Oki Town in Fukuoka Prefecture began sorted-collection of used disposable diapers from households in 2011. The town's target is to achieve a 90-percent collection rate of used diapers, which is nearly 10 percent of the total amount of the waste the town now incinerates. The used diapers collected are first dissolved in water and then recycled into pulp material to be used in construction materials such as fireproof boards.