Absorbent Hygiene Products (AHP) cover a range of multi-material products used in everyday life, made primarily of absorbent tissue-fibre and plastic. Some of the main items that come under AHP include disposable nappies, incontinence pads and feminine hygiene products.
These materials account for over three per cent of the household waste and recycling that we produce as a country. Based on WRAP’s compositional analysis of household waste and recycling, Wales produces approximately 47,000 tonnes of AHP a year, including almost 150 million nappies.
AHP is currently collected from the kerbside for recycling by over a third of Welsh local authorities through a specialist collections service. This is then sent to a specialist processing facility, which initially pre-sorts for non-target material that should not have been collected with the AHP.
Following this, the AHP waste is then shredded, before being treated in an autoclave, a machine that applies significant levels of pressure, heat and steam to remove the biological waste. The plastics are separated from the cellulose fibre, with the plastics sent on to energy-from-waste facilities.
The cellulose fibre fraction is then used for a range of applications, such as a spillage absorbent for oils, cooling fluids and water, packaging and in material for notice boards. It is also currently being trialled for use in the manufacture of fibreboard and wood-plastic composite.
Other potential applications currently undergoing research and development include the use of the end product in insulation, wall panelling, acoustic material and under laminate flooring.