Over 100,000 used nappies repurposed for road resurfacing in Wales

An innovation from Pura NappiCycle, with support from the Welsh Government, means that discarded nappies are being repurposed for a road resurfacing trial in Wales.

From late February this year (2022), parents and other drivers using a stretch of road on the A487 between Cardigan to Aberystwyth in Wales may be unaware that they’re driving over 1.4 miles of roadway containing recovered fibres from over 100,000 used nappies.

If you were to line these nappies up – end-to-end – you’d get an 11 km stretch of nappies.

The UK throws away around 3 billion disposable nappies annually, and 400,000 tonnes of disposable nappy waste ends up in landfill each year. Used nappies can take up to 500 years to degrade.

For the road resurfacing project, a total of 4.3 tonnes of recovered fibre from nappies will be added to the bitumen that glues together the asphalt road surfaces.

The “nappy-enhanced” asphalt is even more durable than standard asphalt but with a reduced carbon footprint, so provides a green solution to road re-surfacing for the Welsh Government, according to Pura NappiCycle.

Nappy recycling in Wales

Nappy recycling is currently a local authority offered service only available in Wales; no other UK country offers the service. In 2009, Rob Poyer, founder of South Wales based NappiCycle, developed a process whereby the nappies could be cleansed, and plastics and cellulose fibres separated for re-use.

100% of the soiled nappies arriving at the plant are processed, so absolutely nothing is sent to landfill, it says.

The recovered cellulose can be repurposed not just for road surfacing, but for notice boards for schools and offices, panelling, under laminate flooring and other insulation.

Pura NappiCycle is a partnership between NappiCycle and entrepreneur, Guy Fennell, founder and CEO of Pura eco-friendly baby care. The Pura NappiCycle partnership prevents more than 800,000 nappies from being landfilled every week, it says.

The road resurfacing is a fantastic example of how recycled nappies – that would have otherwise ended up in landfill – can be put to really good use.

Fennell said: “Pura is all about providing parents with nappy change essentials that are kind to their baby and their planet, while still being affordable and convenient.

“Unfortunately, the technology for the perfect eco-friendly disposable nappy doesn’t exist yet – believe me we’ve looked into it. So, using the latest innovation, we created our own nappies to be high performance, while having a lower eco-impact.

“But we are determined to drive even further change and minimise the damage nappies are having on the planet. That’s why it was crucial that we partner with NappiCycle and work hand in hand to make nappy recycling a reality for all UK parents.

“The road resurfacing is a fantastic example of how recycled nappies – that would have otherwise ended up in landfill – can be put to really good use.”

Rob Poyer, NappiCycle founder, commented: “This type of road surface material has huge potential for producing more sustainable roadways with a lower carbon impact.

“With this trial we hope to demonstrate that waste nappies could be widely adopted in our roads, not just here in Wales, but right around the UK.”

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