Council calls for compostable nappies

By Paul Hemsley

Lake Macquarie Council is proposing the Local Government and Shires Associations of NSW design a campaign pressuring manufacturers to produce compostable nappies.

In terms of sustainability, the current form of nappies has high organic product but with inherent issues in dealing with them in the waste stream.

Lake Macquarie Council director of strategy, Tony Farrell said nappies contain plastic in both the film covering the outside and the tabs are a high density polymer plastic incapable of breaking down in normal processing activities.

“In processing nappies through an alternative waste treatment plan, you end up with flecks of plastic film and tabs in your compost material which creates problems in compliance with compost standards,” Mr Farrell said.

According to Mr Farrell, nappies are likely to be large generators of methane gas if they go to landfill because of their high organic content.

“Apart from that, you have the issue of consumption of finite resources that are potentially going to be buried throughout and become unavailable for reuse,” he said.

Mr Farrell said a standard or regulation may not be needed with further debate and cooperation with manufacturers because it can be managed effectively through education.

“Considering the way aluminium cans are now managed, there’s no regulation requiring people to recycle their aluminium cans because of the community knowledge about the reuse of resources and availability of markets for recycled products so it works without regulation,” Mr Farrell said.

He said regulation would not be as desirable an outcome as community knowledge would be because in any system run by regulation, there will be compliance costs falling on local government.

According to Mr Farrell, there will be a letter writing campaign involving the main manufacturers and potentially the relevant government agencies that licence and manage waste and consumer products if it is adopted at the conference.

He said Lake Macquarie Council is working in conjunction with Kimberly-Clark, the largest manufacturer of disposable nappies in Australia and the Office of Environment and Heritage program to deal with managing nappies.

“We’re contributing financially to a study on the options dealing with the question of nappies in their current state and how to manage nappies in the waste stream that aren’t compostable,” Mr Farrell said.

He said the council is currently working on waste with a “fairly well evolved” waste strategy project, which is generating data about what is in the waste stream.

The average amount of disposed nappies is around four to five per cent of the waste stream in Lake Macquarie.

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