Disposable diapers are an environmental issue since they are extremely hard to recycle and take up to five hundred years to decompose in a landfill. The decomposition time is still subject to change as disposable diapers have only been around since the end of the 1940s.
The shift to more sustainable, biodegradable and/or better recyclable materials is slow. Few materials with similar mechanical properties to what is currently used in disposable diapers exist. There are, however, some encouraging signs: non-mineral oil based superabsorbent polymers have recently started appearing in prototype form, plant-based plastic alternatives are improving, work on diaper recycling is progressing.
Concrete steps to reduce the environmental footprint of our diapers that we have implemented today or that we are working on:
- We designed the outer box in a manner that allows it to be re-used for discreet shipping instead of having to use another box around it.
- The polybags we use on the Crinklz Aquanaut, Astronaut, Buccaneer, and Fairy Tale diapers use a bit less plastic than the ones we use on the classic designs. We could not change all designs to this yet due to production limitations.
- Our diapers are highly compressed to increase packing efficiency and to reduce emissions during transport. Our diapers are made in Europe so the transport routes are often shorter than for products manufactured in the Far East.
- We charge actual shipping costs to customers to encourage buying locally. Bulk transport is always more efficient and energy conserving than individual shipments.
- We investigated using recycled cling wrap for skid transport. Unfortunately, it turned out that about 30% more material would be required to achieve the same tensile strength compared to virgin material. That is why we had to stick with virgin material for the time being.
- We investigated using biodegradable film for the polybags as well as the diaper backsheet. The shelf life and material properties are still insufficient to use in production. We will keep looking into this though.
- We are investigating the use of biodegradable superabsorber that is not made from mineral oil. The current superabsorber is one of the components that is the least biodegradable. At present, only prototypical quantities of these new materials are available. We hope to be able to use these biodegradable superabsorbers in the coming years.
In addition to these activities, we keep on the lookout to find new ways to improve sustainability. Did you know that even the clothlike cover on disposable diapers is made of plastic?