New technology will make nappy disposal sustainable again

Karen Ashby CEO of Envirocomp with the old nappy recycling machine. Ashby said the non-compostable plastic bags were ...
DAVID HALLETT/FAIRFAX NZ

Karen Ashby CEO of Envirocomp with the old nappy recycling machine. Ashby said the non-compostable plastic bags were part of why they decided to find a greener solution.

A company that advertises environmentally friendly nappy disposal has been sending waste to landfill, but will begin turning used nappies into fuel by early 2018.

Nappy disposal service EnviroComp has partnered with technology company Eneform who have developed a novel technology  to turn used tyres, industrial plastic, and nappies into oil and gas fuels.

Eneform chief executive Andrew Simecock said the waste streams would be put in three different heated tubes, which are under vacuum and the waste breaks down into char, oil and a gas similar to liquified petroleum gas. The process is known as pyrolysis.  

Between 3000-3500 nappies on their way to be composted at the HotRot composting plant, which no longer composts ...
TRACEY EDWARDES/FAIRFAX NZ

Between 3000-3500 nappies on their way to be composted at the HotRot composting plant, which no longer composts EnviroComp nappies.

Part of the gas is then used to power the plant so it's largely self-powering, said Simecock. 

READ MORE: Environmentally friendly nappy disposal service sends waste to landfill

He said the oil can be used as boiler fuel at its crudest because it's clean burning, but could also be refined into diesel.

Many customers' children will be out of nappies by the time the new plant opens.
SUPPLIED

Many customers' children will be out of nappies by the time the new plant opens.

"We have supply agreements with people who are already keen to take the oil and gas, it's very easy to sell on the open market."

Simecock said the technology is world leading because it is calibrated to different streams of waste, which they have been working to do for the past 7 years.

He said the partnership with EnviroComp to recycle nappies was "a nice add on". 

"Nappies have quite a high concentration of plastics, so surprisingly it does have quite a high energy content and particularly combining it with industrial plastics there's a very high output of oil and gas," Simecock said. 

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EnviroComp was set up by Karen Ashby in 2009. Ashby sold the business to building facilities services company OCS in 2011. 

She re-purchased the company from OCS in August of last year with Frontier Group Partners after learning OCS intended to exit the business in June. 

Eneform is building two plants, in Canterbury and Waikato, after successfully piloting the technology on at the Fulton Hogan site in Christchurch.

The Canterbury site is expected to open in early 2018.

EnviroComp has facilities in Upper Hutt, Christchurch, Wellington and the UK. While the UK site continues to compost nappies, the New Zealand sites have been disposing of nappies in landfills until the new plants are built.

Many customers have complained on social media that by the time the company debuts its sustainable alternative to landfill, their children will no longer be wearing nappies. 

The company has offered refunds to customers who had purchased the compost bags. 

A spokesman for the Commerce Commission said the Commission had spoken to Ashby about the concerns raised by complainants.

Ashby said the "fuzzy period" between announcing the new waste stream plan and taking over the business was a frustrating consequence of having to re-purchase the company on short notice. 

She said the cost of continuing to compost during the interim was not financially viable.

"At the moment we're in a skeleton operational state just trying to keep things going while we set things up."

The company has maintained OCS' client base of rest homes, pre-schools, and hospitals.

Ashby said the company first started looking for this kind of "end-to-end" waste disposal solution when she first set up the business in 2009. 

"There was talk of new technologies coming to New Zealand that never actually came to fruition, or they did but they weren't able to deal with the extent of what we were producing or the type of waste we were producing."

 - Stuff

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