When I found this article, I knew I would end up making a bad joke to diffuse the obvious squeamishness surrounding the subject matter. In any case, PLEASE pardon the terrible title of this post. Going forward, this isn’t the tone I intend for my blog.
So what environmental news inspired me to channel my inner twelve year old boy?
Japan has found a way to make biofuel pellets….out of adult diapers.
As a society, we can be quite prudish when it comes to discussing taboo bodily functions, but every living creature on the planet takes in certain things and then excretes them. Sometimes this can be a problem in old age, but we can all be mature adults when discussing it. Well, everyone except me apparently. My profound apologies 😉
And now – on with the information!
Japan’s population is one of the most rapidly aging on earth, which of course is creating massive amounts of new medical waste in the form of adult diapers. The usual disposal method of such waste is incineration, which creates its own type of pollution. Disposing of this material in landfills obviously creates health hazards as well as environmental ones, but entrepreneurs like Yukihiro Kimura have found ingenious ways to recycle these seemingly disgusting materials; his company, Super Faiths, collects them from homes, hospitals and care facilities and processes them into nearly-odorless, bacteria free pellets which can be burned to generate electricity. Another company, Total Care Systems, has been recycling diapers since 2005 and has created building materials and solid fuel with the recovered plastic and wood pulp.
If I’ve learned anything in my research over the past few months, it’s that if we are to reduce our carbon footprint, we have to change the way we think about how we dispose of things. Certainly, it seems strange to consider adult diapers as a recyclable source of inexpensive energy, but if anything, it proves that an outside-the-box mentality can make a difference, even if it regards a topic we’d rather not think about.