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Undervalued Waste: How a Company in Paris is Turning Kids' Diapers into Compost Gold

Courtesy of Les Alchimistes / Energy Observer

Courtesy of Les Alchimistes / Energy Observer

Every year in France, consumers buy and throw away 3.5 billion diapers. To recycle this waste, the start-up Les Alchimistes recovers the organic matter from the layers to make compost.

The diapers of our beloved babies and toddlers represent a considerable annual mass of waste. Energy Observer Solutions met up with Les Alchimistes, a company in the Paris region, which recycles diapers from four daycare centers and manages to make a quality compost from this hitherto unexploited bio-waste.

Every year in France, consumers buy and throw away 3.5 billion diapers. To recycle this waste, the start-up Les Alchimistes recovers the organic matter from the layers to make compost.

Undervalued waste

Used diapers represent huge waste streams, that mostly end up in incineration. In the first two years of life, babies consume an average of 2 to 8 diapers a day, and therefore generate more than a ton of this waste. In a household with a child under the age of 2, disposable diapers account for 40% of the household waste. The start-up Les Alchimistes sees this waste as a potential. These bio-waste specialists have designed a mechanical process that recovers organic matter from used diapers and transforms it into compost: this is the "Couches Fertiles" project.

Circular economy

At a dedicated area in Seine-Saint-Denis (93), a machine separates the plastic from the organic pulp, which is combined with wood shavings and coffee grounds to obtain compost. The composting of diapers has been carried out experimentally since 2019 in collaboration with 5 Parisian nurseries and has avoided the incineration of 4 tons of waste. For Les Alchimistes, the long-term objective is to create a virtuous circuit from the layer to the compost, and to work with industrial partners to create a 100% compostable diaper.

This weekly segment "Protecting the planet, one step at a time" gives the floor to the NGO Energy Observer Solutions, which carries out reports all over the world.

Energy Observer is the name of the first hydrogen-powered, zero-emission vessel to be self-sufficient in energy, advocating and serving as a laboratory for ecological transition. Criss-crossing the oceans without air or noise pollution for marine ecosystems, Energy Observer sets out to meet women and men who devote their energy to creating sustainable solutions for a more harmonious world.