Disposable diapers (known in many parts of the world as "nappies"), make busy parents' lives a lot easier and offer other benefits like better leakage prevention and being more absorbent to protect babies’ skin. But they also contribute to the generation of waste, as do many other products people use every day in a modern society.
Kimberly-Clark is committed to innovating products with the entire product life cycle in mind. It’s not just about developing the best diaper; it’s also thinking about what happens when people discard the used diaper and its packaging.
Finding new solutions
Several years ago, Kimberly-Clark’s Huggies brand partnered with Karen and Karl Upston of New Zealand, founders of Envirocomp.
The Upstons wondered if there was a way to continue to benefit from the advantages of disposable diapers without adding to landfills. The couple started collaborating with local New Zealand business HotRot Organic Solutions to build a prototype for a diaper composting system. The innovative technology combines diapers with green waste to make compost that can be used in commercial gardening or landscaping.
From recycled paper as a raw material in tissue production to the repurposing of manufacturing waste materials for beneficial uses, Kimberly-Clark has demonstrated a commitment to finding second-life options for raw materials. As a new, circular economy expands, the company is working on programs with partners like Envirocomp to identify solutions for its consumers as well.
The Uptons partnered with local preschools, a maternity hospital and other community organizations along with 200 families to test the program. Their experiment was an overwhelming success. Over a five-month period, they composted 250,000 diapers and kept 56 tons of waste out of landfills.
Leading innovation for the future
Sponsored by Huggies, Envirocomp established the first commercial diaper composting facility in Christchurch in 2009. Kimberly-Clark worked with Envirocomp to develop the company’s business model and help establish partnerships with industry and government. Within the first year of operation, the facility exceeded its business plan, processing more than 15,000 diapers per day. And in 2013, Envirocomp received accreditation as a voluntary product stewardship scheme by New Zealand’s minister for the environment under the New Zealand Waste Minimisation Act.
Michele Bollinger and Grant Hartley from Kimberly-Clark receive a Certificate of Product Stewardship Accreditation from Amy Adams, former minister for the environment, New Zealand.
Envirocomp was acquired by international services company OCS and has plans to establish diaper composting facilities in Australia, the United Kingdom, Ireland and continental Europe while continuing to expand operations in New Zealand.
“Partnering with Envirocomp allows us to provide concerned parents with a real alternative to landfills,” said Grant Hartley, head of marketing for Kimberly-Clark New Zealand. “We will use the power of the Huggies brand, one that is trusted by parents around the world, to continue leading the way in repurposing materials that otherwise would have been waste.”
— Grant Hartley
We will use the power of the Huggies brand, one that is trusted by parents around the world, to continue leading the way in repurposing materials that otherwise would have been waste. — Grant Hartley
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