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Non-sustainability of current hygiene products

  • The size of the hygiene market. 691 billion absorbent hygiene products were sold in 2020. The key hygiene product is baby diapers.

  • Environmental cost. A review of their environmental cost can be found here. Disposable diapers claimed to be sustainable are not eco-friendly, see page 46 here and here

  • Diapers consume resources. The manufacture and use of disposable diapers amount to 2.3 times more water wasted than cloth. Over 300 pounds of wood, 50 pounds of petroleum feedstocks, and 20 pounds of chlorine are used to produce disposable diapers for one baby each year.

  • Hygiene products produce a lot of waste. Hygiene is the second largest residential waste segment (after packaging) and has no waste regulations.

  • Reuse of diapers. Several decades ago cloth diapers were reused. Today’s disposable diapers are not reusable.

  • Recycling of diapers. It is difficult to recycle used diapers.

  • Recovering energy from used diapers. Used hygiene products are energy neutral and sometime energy negative due to the large amount of liquids they contain. More technically - used hygiene-oriented-plastic has 44% moisture (vs 13% moisture in packaging), hence, it has a low calorie/energy value in burning based solutions. 

  • Hygiene products are dumped to landfills. It takes them centuries to degrade there.

  • Price of contamination. The current price of $0.29 per diaper is subject to compensative “Plastic Toxicity Tax” of an additional $0.56 per diaper (~200%)

Polygreen's hygiene products enhance sustainability 

We use the terminology of the EU Waste Management Hierarchy Directive (WMH) to describe how our hygiene products address the non-sustainability of current hygiene products.

  • Reduce - the directive to reduce in the WMH is the goal to consume less resources. This directive is given the highest priority since it implies a lower level of burden on all other directives. eSAP and our new assembly paradigm enable reduction and elimination of pulp fluff and reduction of plastic weight while retaining absorbance of disposable medical/hygiene products. The reduction of use of pulp that eSAP enables reduces the need to cut and process trees which, directly, reduces water and energy usage and indirectly saves land and increases carbon absorption

  • Recycle - the directive to recycle in the WMH is goal to make use of a product at the end of its life. We make downstream recycling more feasible by reducing the variety of plastic in the hygiene products.

  • Landfill suitability is the WMH directive for products to be degradable in landfills. Our eSAP undergoes bio-degradation.                 

         The EU Waste Management Hierarchy is described below


The hierarchy of waste management 

To optimize use of resources and minimize contamination we use the Waste Management Hierarchy presented on the left. Broadly speaking it says that it is best to Reduce usage of any resources, it is good to Reuse products and then to Recycle them, and towards the end of their life we should Recover as much as possible.

Often, what is recovered is energy in the form of biogas. Whatever remains is dumped in Landfills. This is a diagrammatic presentation of a sustainability evaluation process which considers multiple environmental aspects. 

Interestingly, life cycle analysis of single-use nappies shows that the focus should be put on the pre-use stage as opposed to the post-use-stage since more than 90% of water, energy consumption and land use occur during the pre-use stage. Hence the importance of Reduce as far as this product is concerned.

In Polygreen, we measure our environmental impact using this EU Waste Management Hierarchy Goals (EU Directive 2008/98/EC), as detailed above;

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