Disposable diapers present a huge waste problem worldwide. According to reports an estimated 20 billion disposable diapers accumulate in landfills in the US alone. Similar numbers are true for Europe. Producers aim to make diapers more sustainable and while many components have already been made compostable, the absorbent material essential for any diaper has been made from environmentally persistent polymers. A bio-based alternative with the necessary performance and economics to make a compostable diaper work at scale has been missing.
To that aim French diaper producer Agromousquetaires, through its Cellulose de Brocéliande subsidiary, collaborates with North Carolina-based materials producer, Tethis, which aims to bring the first known compostable diaper to market. The program, branded Couches Fertiles (Fertile Diapers) by Les Alchimistes, a young socially responsible company, is an initiative to demonstrate the sustainable, controlled and full-cycle process of the compostable diapers from use to collection to disposal in a variety of institutions in Paris, France.
In conjunction with Paris City Hall and the French Ministry of Ecological Transition, the Couches Fertiles program has demonstrated cradle-to-cradle sustainability of the diapers by partnering with nurseries over two years. Couche Fertiles provided thousands of diapers to nurseries to verify the diapers were effective for use. The nursery staff confirmed the compostable diapers being tested were just as suitable as other standard diapers. Disposal of the diapers was also successful, Les Alchimistes, led the collection and the successful composting of the diapers in a controlled, industrial environment. Over the past two years more than 15,000 diapers have been successfully composted, demonstrating the viability of converting baby diapers from a landfill or incinerated waste and into a useful, safe and eco-friendly consumer product.
As the pilot program accelerates, Cellulose de Brocéliande and Tethis are expanding their collaboration to evaluate the next steps to bring the compostable diapers to the market in Europe at commercial scale.