Local Councils

How to recycle nappies and pads, keeping them out of the garbage bin

Councils in many states are under increasing pressure to recycle more, divert organics from landfill, deliver on sustainability targets and balance the budget.

Disposable nappies are reported to make up between 5% and 8% of the ‘average’ garbage bin. But it’s not just baby nappies, the use of adult continence aids is growing, and these go in the garbage bin too.

There is a growing recognition that councils need a solution for nappies and pads, if they are to maximise the recycling of food and garden organics, and recycle more. The issue of how to manage these items, called absorbent hygiene waste (AHW) must be deliberately planned, especially in less-frequent residual waste collection programs, to avoid potential odour, health issues and customer complaints.

Relivit estimates that Australia produces almost 500,000 tonnes of absorbent hygiene waste (AHW) each year, and that at least half of that waste volume is generated in households. The nappies and pads used in households, which are disposed to landfill through local council collections, would fill the Melbourne Cricket Ground to the top.

Relivit’s plans in Australia

In late 2013, Relivit will offer trials in Sydney for a collection and recycling service for nappies and pads in the Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) stream, working with waste collection providers to divert this material from landfill.

Relivit has a number of options that it is actively investigating, based on successful programs trialled both overseas and previously in Australia. We intend to develop our strategy in this area with select councils, representing metropolitan and regional settings.

We are gathering a group of councils in Sydney to work on evaluating methods for collecting nappies and pads from households. Further details were presented at the workshop at the Australian Waste & Recycling Expo (AWRE) in Sydney on Thursday 22nd November 2012. Click here for a copy of the presentation and to find out more about the working group.

Please do contact us if you work in waste management in a local council or a regional group and are interested in discussing this opportunity.

Currently 7 councils in England, Scotland and Wales are trialling or have implemented separate collections for nappies. A list of links to these council web sites and UK publicity is provided here.

Cheshire West and Chester Council: 6 month trial of nappy collections, started in August 2012.
– Click here for more information.

Mole Valley (South of London): 6 month trial of nappy collections, starting in 2013.
– Click here for more information.


4 councils including Fife, Stirling, Perth and Kinross & North Lanarkshire are trialling dedicated collections of disposable nappies from 36,000 homes for six months. The trials are funded by Zero Waste Scotland.

Article on “Nappy Days” at Zero Waste Scotland website.