In June edie reported the sudden closure of the UK’s only plant plant for nappy recycling, which was operated by Knowaste (Midlands) in West Bromwich.

Since then, there has been much speculation over whether such treatment processes are cost-effective for nappies, but recent trials in Scotland suggest that enough volume could be generated through household kerbside collections to make it feasible.

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

Four Scottish councils – Fife, North Lanarkshire, Perth and Kinross, and Stirling – took part in the trials last year which operated over a six-month period. The research was used to model potential examples of how collections could be rolled out.

In each of the examples, it was found that authority-wide recycling rates could be increased by around 0.5%, 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.

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.

In general, kerbside collections performed better and were more acceptable than collection points, and 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.

Commenting on the results, Zero Waste Scotland director Iain Gulland said: “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.”

Maxine Perella

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