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Hsinchu County looking to turn used diapers 'into gold'

Hsinchu County is working with industry and academia to make used diapers recyclable

Hsinchu County looking to turn used diapers 'into gold'

(CNA photo)

Taipei, Feb. 20 -- The northern county of Hsinchu, home to Taiwan's first science park, is working with industry and academia to make used diapers recyclable, reducing them to raw materials such as pulp and plastic for industrial use.

The county government has established a "Turning Diapers Into Gold" team with local companies and researchers that are devoted to the development of green industry, said Huang Shih-han (黃士漢), head of the Hsinchu County Environmental Protection Bureau, in a recent interview with CNA.

The technology the team has developed to recycle diapers and turn them into products with a high commercial value won a national industrial design award in the area of environmental protection last year, Huang said.

If the recycling technology is widely adopted in the future, it will "not only help reduce carbon emissions but also enable local governments to save the money needed to build garbage incinerators," Huang added.

"Every day, over 2 million diapers are thrown away in Taiwan," Huang pointed out, noting that such waste, which is currently listed as non-recyclable, accounts for 3-5 percent of Taiwan's total garbage volume.

Large numbers of used diapers can now only be buried in landfills or burned at incinerators. However, research results indicate that it can take up to 400 years for buried used diapers to decompose, Huang said.

Moreover, due to their high liquid content and plastic layer, diapers can produce toxic substances when they are incinerated, lowering the temperature of the incinerator and "that has a huge impact on the environment," the official said.

Recycling diapers also meets the county's long-term goal of reducing garbage as it has no garbage incinerators of its own, he went on.

Wu Pei-ren (吳倍任), founder of Multiply Energy Co. (清倍華再源技), a Taiwan-based renewable energy technology company working with the Hsinchu team, said with the company's patented technology, used diapers can be reduced to fluff pulp, polyacrylate and polyethylene.

These can then be reused to make industrial cardboard, desiccant and garbage bags, Wu said.

John Hwang (黃思蓴), a professor in industrial design at Chung Hua University in Hsinchu City, said if diapers can be recycled and reused in Taiwan, they could produce up to 75,000 tons of renewable pulp a year, helping save 864,000 trees from being chopped down and the water used in pulp production.

Diaper recycling realizes the goals of the "circular economy" and "environmental protection," Hwang said.