Resource Use

AHP recycling project launches in Wales

A new project has been established to help Welsh local authorities develop treatment and recycling solutions for absorbent hygiene product (AHP) waste.

An image of nappy waste

With an estimated 40,000 tonnes of AHP waste – including disposable nappies and sanitary products – in the Welsh waste stream, the ‘Dyfodol Gwyrdd Glân’/‘Clean Green Future’ project is inviting businesses who can offer innovative recycling approaches to attend an Industry Day on Monday 20 January.

Working in collaboration with the Welsh Government, which recently released its new circular economy strategy, the project hopes to find an affordable solution for Welsh local authorities that reduces residual waste and recycles AHP waste into an end product, whilst also resulting in a reduced carbon impact for Wales.

Hannah Blythyn, Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government, will be attending the Industry Day as keynote speaker, alongside members of the project team and experts from Ricardo consulting, Capital Law and Natural Resources Wales.

Nigel Wheeler, Senior Responsible Officer for the ‘Dyfodol Gwyrdd Glân’/‘Clean Green Future’ project, said: “This innovative project is working with and on behalf of all Welsh local authorities and the Welsh Government to develop and deliver an affordable, sustainable treatment and recycling solution for AHP waste in Wales.

“There have been a number of innovative advancements in the way AHP waste is managed in recent years and the main aim of this project is to work with and engage with businesses to use and enhance these to turn AHP waste into a valuable resource.

“This can only be done by developing treatment and recycling solutions from what has previously been seen as a solid waste disposal issue – resulting in a reduced carbon impact for Wales. As a nation it is vital that we work together to develop a Clean, Green Future for Wales so that we can meet the Welsh Government target of becoming a zero-waste nation by 2050.”

AHP recycling issues

AHP waste poses significant challenges when it comes to recycling – in addition to odour issues and the fact that they become contaminated with putrescible waste, which cause difficulties with storage, single-use nappies and sanitary products are commonly made up of several composite materials that cannot be easily separated or cleaned.

As such, treatment options are slim. Whilst AHP recycling company Knowaste previously provided a solution to this difficult-to-recycle waste stream, the company failed to secure planning permission in 2015 for a new plant in West London following concerns over potential odour emissions. Knowaste had already shut down its original plant in West Bromwich in 2013 after just 20 months of operation, leaving no AHP reprocessing facility in the UK.

Technologies for recycling AHP

The ‘Dyfodol Gwyrdd Glân’/‘Clean Green Future’ is open to all forms of technologies in the search for an AHP recycling solution. Brian Mayne, Technical Lead for the project, said: "The project has a technology netural approach and ultimately aims to encourage as wide a participation in the procurement as possible. The project aims to encourage and utilise as many innovative solutions as possible to develop this waste, which has previously been seen as a solid waste disposal issue, into a valuable resource treatment and recycling solution. We would not dismiss any recycling technology at this stage.

"There are a number of technologies that are operating or being trialled to recycle AHP. Some are aimed at recycling manufacturing waste while others are focused on post-consumer materials. Technologies include chemical treatments, bio-drying processes and autoclaving to name a few.

"A number of technologies sanitise and separate AHP waste, with further shredding and separation undertaken by mechanical processes. Waste materials can be separated into two components: polypropylene and polyethylene plastics and cellulose fibres, which can be sent for recycling.

"Other technologies being developed include the valorisation of the cellulosic fraction of post-consumer AHP waste towards the production of bio-based building blocks, polymers and fertilisers."

You can find more information and register for the Industry Day on the Clean Green Future website

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