As part of Wales’ bid to become a zero waste nation by 2050, the Welsh Government has trialled using recycled nappies to resurface a stretch of road on the A487 between Cardigan and Aberystwyth.
Fibres from 4.3 tonnes of used nappies have replaced materials used to make asphalt that are normally shipped in from Europe and beyond. The other ingredient - aggregate - was sourced within a 45 mile radius, sustaining local jobs and cutting carbon by shortening the supply chain.
Nappies and other absorbent hygiene products are currently or have plans to be collected in 15 out of 22 local authorities in Wales. Still, an estimated 143 million nappies are thrown away in Wales each year.
Considered a single-use plastic, they could take hundreds of years to degrade in landfill. Though the plastic lining can be recycled easily, the fibres in the absorbing layer have previously proven a challenge.
To address this, Welsh Government through its SMART innovation programme funded Ammanford-based NappiCycle to clean used nappies and separate the plastic and cellulose fibres for re-use. It is working with Welsh business to explore other market uses for the fibres.
The road is just one of many innovations Welsh Government is spearheading in its aim to move to a circular economy - where waste is turned into a resource and kept in use for as long as possible.
If the trial - which will undergo rigorous environmental assessments to scrutinise breakdown of the material over time - proves successful, the initiative could be scaled up - reducing waste, tackling climate change and creating green jobs in the process.
Minister for Climate Change, Julie James said:
The road to zero waste requires innovation, collaboration and bold action. We have elevated ourselves from one of the world’s worst recyclers to one of the best since devolution began. I have no doubt that with a Team Wales effort we can achieve world number one recycler, whilst ensuring no more rubbish is sent to landfill after 2025 and none sent to energy incinerators after 2050.
Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said:
Welsh Government is committed to supporting our businesses to design and develop innovative solutions to global problems, which helps boost our economy and protect our society.
I’m delighted our Innovation Team have been able to play a pioneering role in taking this project forward. Once again, Wales is demonstrating it is a leading player in applying research and development to Circular Economy solutions.
Wales is ranked first in the UK, second in Europe and third in the world for household waste recycling. Wales remains the only country in the world to enshrine a Well-Being of Future Generations Act in law, meaning all policy decisions made today must consider the impact on the generations of tomorrow.