LCA of waste treatment of diaper material

CE Delft assessed the environmental sustainability of treatment of diaper material, by making a life cycle assessment (LCA). This assessment was made for MARN (collaboration of 10 municipalities in the Nijmegen region), ARN B.V. and Elsinga policyplanning and innovation. A comparison was made between treatment in a municipal solid waste incinerator (MSWI) with energy recovery, and treatment through a method developed by Elsinga, based on thermal pressure hydrolysis (TPH) at 250°C >40 Bar, a process which yields plastic (LDPE/PP) and biogas.

The LCA results show that the TPH treatment has an environmental benefit, relative to incineration, on 12 out of 17 midpoints, and on all three endpoint categories (Human Health, Ecosystems and Resources). Analysis of the endpoint results shows that the carbon footprint is the most important contributor to the overall environmental impact. Treating diaper material with the TPH process instead of incineration in an average Dutch MSWI saves ~480 kg CO2-eq. per tonne of diaper material.