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Company develops technology for recycling diapers

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TOKYO >> Unicharm Corp. has developed technology for recycling used disposable diapers.

Last week, the company said it plans to collect the product, disassemble and sterilize it, then extract pulp and other materials to create new paper diapers. It plans to sell the recycled diapers as early as April 2021.

Due to an aging population, use of the diapers — and the garbage they create — is growing each year. Adult diapers in particular are said to become three to four times heavier after use. These contain plenty of water, making them more likely to damage incinerators and increase disposal costs for local governments.

To alleviate the situation, since 2016, Unicharm has been conducting a series of tests with the government of Shibushi, Kagoshima Prefecture, to create the recycled diapers. In the tests, the city collects the used diapers and delivers them to a facility to be washed and sterilized using the company’s ozone-treatment technology, then bleached. Pulp and other substances are then extracted.

The partnership has successfully resulted in prototypes of disposable diapers and toilet paper made of the recycled pulp.

Unicharm and Shibushi are also making products such as cardboard from the recycled diapers, and plan to study regenerating pulp into rayon, for making clothing and wet wipes.

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