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Source: Environmental News Service

California Town Launches Diaper Recycling

SANTA CLARITA, California, November 13, 2002 (ENS) - The city of Santa Clarita has launched the nation's first diaper recycling program, which will turn soiled diapers into building materials and other products.

Recycling diapers in Santa Clarita will soon be as easy as recycling soda cans, newspapers or yard trimmings. About 200-500 residents, selected by the city, will participate in a free, six-month pilot program, placing used diapers in special plastic bags and/or curbside bins to be picked up on their regular trash pick up day.

A process developed by Knowaste LLC will sanitize and recycle the diapers' primary components. The recycled plastic can be used in the production of plastic wood, roof shingles and vinyl wood siding.

Knowaste says the long fibrous wood pulp from the diapers can be used in many different applications, including wallpaper, shoe insoles and oil filters.

"This marks the first time a municipality in the United States has decided to make recycling diapers an environmental priority and provided a solution to the overwhelming amount of diapers in the waste stream," said Santa Clarita Mayor Frank Ferry. "Santa Clarita has a long history in environmental stewardship and leadership and we are very pleased to add one more innovative component to our city's overall recycling strategy."

California faces shrinking landfill capacities, compounded by a rising population that is estimated to add 25 million new residents by the year 2040. Local cities and communities are mandated via state legislation to reduce their trash diversions to landfills by 50 percent or face stiff financial penalties, so innovative recycling concepts are required.

Some cities, such as Santa Clarita, have stated their intent to divert as much as 75 percent of trash from landfills.

Disposable baby diapers, used by about 98 percent of all parents, are one of the largest single contributors still going to landfills, after excluding components routed to existing recycling programs. Almost 20 billion disposable baby diapers, almost seven billion pounds, enter landfills each year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and research indicates that a single diaper can take almost 500 years to decompose.

The environmental impacts of disposable diapers are also severe - it takes almost a quarter of a million trees to meet the annual demands for diapers in the U.S. every year.

The diaper recycling program was made possible by state and local matching grant funds. Santa Clarita chose Knowaste's program for its proven track record, first in Canada and the Netherlands, and now in Santa Clarita, in handling and recycling millions of diapers.

The Knowaste processor in Santa Clarita will be a small-scale version of the company's Netherlands facility and will be capable of processing up to a ton of diapers per hour.

"We are delighted that the city of Santa Clarita has chosen the Knowaste technology to recycle disposable diapers," said Roy Brown, president and chief executive officer of Knowaste LLC. "As environmental and land use planning concerns mount, there is obviously a compelling need nationwide for municipalities to explore new recycling opportunities and technologies, expanding our current efforts beyond soda cans, glass and paper goods."