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Innovative process turns diapers, sanitary products, into energy

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A process is taking sanitary products, diapers and incontinence pads and turning them into energy.

The LifeCycle technique, developed by hygiene and waste management company PHS Group, has been designed to process commercial hygiene waste in such a way that moisture content is removed and a "raw, clean burnable mass" is left over. This fuel, known as Refuse Derived Fuel, is then burnt to create energy.

The process has a worldwide patent. The PHS Group says its system is able to process 10 tonnes per hour, and has set itself the target of "zero to landfill" for waste produced by its customers by the end of this year.

The business said that before it had developed its technology, hygiene waste products were either sent to landfill – where a diaper could take 500 years to decompose – or burnt.

"Hygiene products are an essential part of many of our everyday lives but disposing of them has always been an issue," Justin Tydeman, chief executive of the PHS Group, said in a statement on Monday.

"We have spent almost a decade refining the LifeCycle process and we now have a viable option for diverting hygiene waste products away from landfill," Tydeman added.

Other processes and techniques have been developed to turn the waste humans produce into something useful.

To give just one example, the Sol-Char toilet – designed by a team at the University of Colorado Boulder – uses concentrated solar energy to convert human waste into useful and sellable end products such as solid fuel, fertilizer and heat.