Nappy recycling project 2024

The nappy problem

In the UK we throw away around 3 billion nappies every year. It’s estimated they make up 2-3% of all household waste. As they’re made of several different materials, including plastic, they don’t biodegrade and will just sit in landfill for hundreds of years. 

The good news is, the technology now exists to recycle them. We just need our waste infrastructure to catch up so more of those 3 billion can be diverted from the dump.

Recycling works in Wales

In Wales they’ve been recycling nappies for over a decade. Thanks to the Welsh government’s ambitious recycling targets there’s kerbside pickup of what’s called ‘absorbent hygiene product waste’ in most local authorities. 

We’re keen to prove that it’s possible for this to happen across the whole of the UK.

Our exciting new project

Starting this spring, we’re working with recycling facility Nappicycle, nappy manufacturer Pura, and Bristol Waste to show it can work in England. The project is also supported by Asda.

Our target is to collect 1 million nappies for recycling in 12 months. About 30% of those will come from Green Bottoms nurseries in the West Midlands, the M5 corridor and Bristol. The other 70% will be collected from families in selected Bristol postcodes.

We will take everything we collect to a dedicated space provided by Bristol Waste. Nappicycle will then transport the waste to their specialist recycling facility in South Wales.

Our target

nappies recycled in a year

We're collecting nappies

How are the nappies recycled?

The nappies go through a friction washing process. The waste is removed and the remaining cellulose and plastic is dried and shredded. The waste isn’t wasted and is used as a catalyst for turning the shredded material into a fibre. This is milled into pellets.

What are they used for?

The fibre pellets can be turned into noticeboards, acoustic panelling and even mixed into asphalt for road surfacing. If you’ve driven on the A487 recently your journey was made smoother by recycled nappies!

Signage and shelves displaying Pura products in 320 Asda stores have also been made of recycled nappies.

The next steps

We are so excited to be a part of this project. It’s what Green Bottoms is all about: helping nurseries, helping families and helping the childcare sector become more sustainable.

Hopefully we will show local authorities in England and central government that this is a viable answer to the problem of nappy waste and we will see kerbside recycling of absorbent hygiene products rolled out across the UK.

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