Nappy days could be on the way as recycling trials are a hit with parents

It could soon be possible for households across Scotland to recycle disposable nappies and other hygiene products after local trials last year proved a big success.

8 Aug 13

Zero Waste Scotland, which organised the trials, believes that if the collections do become widespread it would create an economic case to build a specialist nappy recycling factory within Scotland, creating green jobs.

Nappies and other absorbable hygiene products (AHPs) are made of a mixture of plastics and fibre-based material.  Once sterilised, the materials can be shredded and separated, with the fibre being used in construction and animal bedding uses and the plastics being used in roof tiles, plastic lumber, or made into recycling bins.

Four Scottish councils - Fife, North Lanarkshire, Perth and Kinross, and Stirling – took part in trials last year which operated over a six-month period.  Between them the councils tested a number of different bin types and collection methods, including opt-in kerbside collections and collection points at recycling centres.

Key findings of the trials included:

  • Kerbside collections performed better and were more acceptable than collection points
  • Customer satisfaction with kerbside collections was high regardless of the container type used
  • On average, between 72% and 82% of households who opted-in to a collection service went on to use it
  • Householders were motivated to use the services because they recognised the environmental benefits and because they reduced the amount of residual (black bag) waste produced.

The research was also used to model potential examples of how collections could be rolled out.  In each of the examples authority-wide recycling rates could be increased by around half a per cent, with costs in year one ranging from £4.25 to £7.12 per household, reducing in year two to between £1.58 and £2.72 per household.

Iain Gulland, Director of Zero Waste Scotland, said:

“It’s great that parents have taken so well to these nappy recycling schemes.  It shows that people want to recycle because they know it’s good for the environment and can reduce the amount we send to landfill.

“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.

“When it becomes possible for people to recycle things like dirty nappies we have to believe that our vision of a zero waste society really can be achieved.”

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said:

“Disposable nappies have a huge impact on the environment with a staggering 450,000 ending up in landfill each day in Scotland. The innovative nappy recycling trial scheme has been well received by parents and I’d encourage all local authorities to look at the results, and work with Zero Waste Scotland and the recycling industry to explore the opportunities further.

“Our vision for Zero Waste is about getting people to reduce waste and recycle more, but it’s also about keeping more of the value from recycling within our own economy. 

"By working together to embrace new technologies, we not only create jobs but also reuse waste and treat it as a valuable resource."

The full research report can be found at

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