A closer look at the recycling process of diapers

Diapers and incontinence materials are extremely ingenious products, with a world of technology behind them. Diapers consist of different types of plastics, plus wood fibers and SAPs: these are small granules that absorb a lot of moisture. The same materials are used for incontinence diapers, just in a different ratio. About fifty percent of the weight of a used (incontinence) diaper consists of moisture. They are formulated in such a way that moisture hardly comes into contact with the skin. And after use, you can also get rid of the used diapers super easily. We just mean: diapers represent convenience. But: how do we recycle these high-quality products?

The process: clean reclaimed materials

We prefer that used diapers are collected from daycare centers and healthcare institutions. Upon arrival, the diaper waste is cut up and washed intensively. In a first step, the plastic is separated from the other material. The plastics stream is intensively washed and decontaminated. That means: freed from pathogens and drugs. The stream of wood fibers and SAP’s is treated as follows. First the SAP’s are deactivated. That is a unique process in which we distinguish ourselves. The deactivation ensures that the SAP’s release their moisture. If that doesn't work, it will remain a gel-like substance with which you can't do much. By deactivating the SAP’s we are able to separate the SAP’s from the wood fibers. Because we want to be able to reuse the high-quality wood fibers (valuable raw material) in other products. Both the wood fibers and the SAP’s undergo an intensive decontamination treatment, to make sure that all pathogens are killed and medicine residues are removed. We do this with techniques that do not require heat (such as sterilization or TPH process) and during which we use process water very efficiently. All in all, our process ensures the recovery of high-quality raw materials. The process water undergoes intensive post-treatment, so that we reuse the process water as much as possible.


The advantages of our unique technology:
  • Deactivation of the SAP’s: without deactivation, separation of materials is not possible
  • Separation of materials: clean end products mean high yields
  • Advanced decontamination: with techniques that require little energy
  • Free of pathogens and medicines: so that we can use the end products in other products
  • Efficient use of energy and water and 70% less CO2 emissions

100% recycling – 0% incineration

Continuous research

Diaper Recycling Europe is very proud of the process as we currently perform it. But we also know: we are only at the beginning. Currently only 0.3% of global diaper waste is recycled. We are fully committed to our mission to continuously improve the process. That is why we conduct ongoing research together with knowledge institutes to continuously improve our process. And above all, making our recycling process even cleaner and safer.

High demands on recycling

Europe is on its way to become fully circular. The Netherlands would like to reacht that point by 20250. This means that the secondary products must meet very high standards. A number of protocols and assessment criteria have been drawn up for this by the Dutch government (including RIVM). The requirements for clean and safe recycling of diaper material are probably the highest in the Netherlands. We are in discussion with all authorities to meet these high requirements.

RIVM, LAP3, End of Waste

The Dutch helath authority, RIVM, has drawn up an extensive protocol to assess the recycling process and the secondary flows for safety. Breaking down pathogens and medicines is central to this protocol. This also applies to other waste sector plans (LAP3): requirements that you cannot simply meet. This also applies to the End of Waste status of the European Commission, which places high demands on the secondary products.