When my first child was born in the late 1990’s, my wife and I utilized a diaper service that would supply new diapers and take used ones back for recycling.  The service was not the lowest cost option but I felt a personal conviction to help out a start-up in the recycling business (it was also very convenient).  When my second child was born in the 2000’s, I sadly admit that I did not pay the extra money for the diaper recycling service.

Montreal Borough Launches Diaper Reuse Project 

The latest attempt to apply the 3Rs to the diaper business can be found in Montreal borough of Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.   The borough is launching a two-year pilot project to subsidize the cost of reusable diapers and feminine hygiene products.

According to a report by CBC, the diaper and sanitary napkin recycling pilot project will start in mid-October.  The Borough will subsidize the cost of reusable diapers and feminine hygiene products, offering citizens up to $200 a year for cloth diapers and $100 every two years for menstrual products like reusable pads, sponges and cups.

“There are two things we’re looking at here: we want to do all we can for the environment, but we also want to help families save money,” said borough Mayor Sue Montgomery.

Mayor Sue Montgomery

In late June, the borough agreed to launch a diaper subsidy program in the fall — a program adopted by a number of municipalities across the province, including Verdun and Mercier—Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.

When the project gets underway, anyone living in the Borough who is interested in claiming the subsidy can file a request with the borough along with their receipts for reusable products. The subsidy will be offered on a sliding scale, with more to lower-income families.  The subsidy can also be used to cover the costs of used cloth diapers and material purchased to make cloth diapers or reusable menstrual products.

Before approving the measure, the borough compared the use of 1,000 disposable diapers to 1,000 reusable diaper changes — studying the impact from production to landfill.  Overall, cloth diapers use considerably less material, water and landfill space, producing 27 kilograms of solid waste versus the 200 kilograms produced by disposable diapers.  Cloth diapers, the borough found, have the potential of saving parents more than $2,500 in the long run despite the added laundry costs.

Region of Peel Experience with Recycling

For approximately a decade (1999 to 2009), the Region of Peel attempted to divert diapers from the waste stream.  Based on data from the Region of Peel (comprising the Cities of Mississauga and Brampton along with the Town of Caledon), diapers make up approximately 4.5 per cent of the waste stream.

By 2009, the Region of Peel came to the conclusion that there was no existing technology or business model in Ontario that would make the practice of recycling diapers feasible. Over the decade that it tried, the Region tried several measures to deal with diaper collection and recycling.  In 2009, the Region of Peel was spending more than $3 million a year to collect, transfer and dispose of diapers, incontinence and sanitary hygiene products.

The first attempt to collect diapers for recycling in the Region of Peel was in 1996.  The Regional Municipality enlisted the help of Mississauga-based Knowaste Technology, the only diaper recycling facility in the Greater Toronto Area.  The plant closed in 2008 due to poor market conditions (residents, like myself) had to pay extra for pick-up of diapers for recycling.

Knowaste is currently operating in Europe, where it owns and operates recycling facilities.  It also grants a license to use its pioneering technology and know-how to carefully selected local companies, on an exclusive basis.

Knowaste’s West Bromwich plant in the UK

When the diaper recycling program first started in Peel, residents were able to drop diapers off at public waste depots. However, that practice was scrapped a year later because of poor participation rates and rising collection costs.