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Graduate develops nappy recycling solution

A process for turning absorbent hygiene product (AHP) waste into textiles and fuel has been developed by an Aberystwyth University graduate.

Joe Freemantle (pictured above left) devised a process to turn waste disposable nappies, incontinence pads and sanitary products into new products including pure cellulose fibre and biofuel.

The work was funded by the Climate-KIC Greenhouse programme, following a successful bid in December 2015.

Freemantle’s original concept was based on converting used cigarette butts into biofuel, an idea he and friends developed while attending the Climate-KIC’s summer school in 2015.

This led to establishing start-up company Green Phoenix and the project to convert used nappies and sanitary waste.

Senior research scientist at the university’s biology department, Dr Gordon Allison (pictured above right), said: “Joe came to his MSc course at Aberystwyth with his head full of ideas after spending a year working in commercial biotechnology.

“This funding will allow him to take his business ambitions to the next level.”

Freemantle said: “Our intention is to intercept this waste and, by using separation and refining technologies, allow for the recycling of valuable components, reducing the amount of AHPs that end up in landfill or incinerators and, in turn, cut the demand and therefore the emissions associated with the production of these materials.

“The nappies then need to be processed – separating the fibres from the plastic components and the sanitary waste must be made non-toxic – before fermentation to liquid transport fuel.

“It will also be possible to regenerate very pure and valuable cellulose, which can be used to manufacture polymers such as rayon, lyocell and viscose.”

The development of a commercially successful AHP recycling business has been a challenge for the industry.

Recycler Knowaste is currently building a facility in Hayes (pictured below), west London, after abandoning a facility it set up in West Bromwich in 2013.

In 2015, it said in a statement it had “worked tirelessly to ensure” that all aspects of its business model were in place for a commercially viable facility since 2013.

Knowaste hayes 180 site

Knowaste hayes 180 site

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