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Scottish nappy recycling facility possible if collections expand

A specialist nappy recycling factory, allowing households to recycle disposable nappies and other absorbent hygiene products (AHP), could be built in Scotland if collections become sufficiently widespread.

Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS) organised a six-month trial last year examining the most effective methods of collecting nappies and has published the results. Four Scottish councils, Fife, North Lanarkshire, Perth and Kinross, and Stirling took part in the trials.

The ZWS report concluded that kerbside collection services for AHP recycling will deliver the highest opt-in rates, customer acceptability and satisfaction. Householders were also motivated to use kerbside recycling services due to environmental benefits and the extra capacity in their residual bin caused by having a specific AHP container.

On the other hand, household waste recycling centre (HWRC) collections were not as successful for opt-in rates, cost per tonne and the tonnage diverted.

The report also found that, on average, between 72% and 82% of households who opted in to a collection service went on to use it.

The report used statistics from Knowaste’s nappy recycling facility in West Bromwich, which closed with little notice in May, to estimate the costs of fully operational nappy recycling schemes in Scotland.

ZWS said that if collections become sufficiently widespread it will be able to put forward an economic case to build a specialist facility within Scotland.

Iain Gulland, director of ZWS, added: “If the success of these trials was repeated across the country, there could be enough material being collected to justify investment in a specialist nappy recycling factory here in Scotland, which would be great for our economy.”

However, in May, Lynn Riley, Cheshire West and Cheshire council’s executive member for community and environment, cast doubt on the economic feasibility of nappy recycling, saying: “The closure of the Knowaste facility, the only one of its kind in England signals that despite proving the concept, overall costs remain for the moment at a level which makes this form of recycling unviable.”

In Scotland 450,000 disposable nappies go to landfill each day, according to Scottish Government environment secretary Richard Lochhead.

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