Today’s Solutions: February 04, 2023

Recycling plastic to create a new purpose for it is nothing new. Here at The Optimist Daily, we’ve previously shared how innovators have reused this material to create blocks for building, a sleek chair, and LEGO bricks.

A diaper highway

For the first time, the plastic in diapers is being repurposed to pave a 1.5 mile road in Wales. More than 100,000 used diapers were rinsed to remove any excrement, shredded, and then condensed with a mix of asphalt to create fibrous pellets.

Don’t worry, the road does not smell like poop like you might think. “You’re not sure what to expect when you turn up to a nappy road,” said Ben Lake, a politician who represents this area in Britain’s Parliament. Although, he was happy to state: “It smells like – road.”

What is the environmental impact of diapers?

Annually, about three billion disposable diapers are thrown away in Britain, equating to around two-to-three percent of household waste. Across the whole of the United States, this daily number totals at a shocking 50 million.

What’s worse is the overwhelming majority of these will go to landfills, where even biodegradable diapers take years to break down. Therefore, this ingenious idea of using this waste in a constructive way could hugely reduce the amount piled up in landfills.

Plastic vs cloth

This innovation also brings to light the environmental burden plastic disposable diapers have on the world. Some experts claim that reusable cloth diapers are better for the environment as they create less waste. Although, this is only the case if washed in an efficient washing machine. Seaweed-fiber Sumo diapers are another environmentally friendly alternative, though price and accessibility are a factor in whether parents can use these.

Hopefully, repurposing diapers in this way such as to make a road will make the most common choice of diapers greener. On this topic, Jason Hallett, a professor at Imperial College London, stated that using used diapers in this way: “arguably gives more options for end-of-life uses for plastic in nappies, therefore it makes those products less environmentally damaging.”

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