BROOMFIELD, IND. - A new recyclable diaper isn't being recycled - yet. Envirodiaper, an all-in-one, washable and reusable polyester diaper produced by Broomfield, Ind.-based Circle J Industries Inc., can be recycled and kept out of the waste stream. But the diaper isn't yet being purchased in great enough quantities to make the process feasible.
Circle J President Jon Rapp and his partner Jack Caschette began making the diapers after buying the manufacturing and marketing rights in 1992 from inventor LeAnn Sorenson.
After its useful life of about two years, Envirodiaper is completely recyclable without processors having to separate any materials, Rapp said. The diaper is made entirely of polyester, from the protective outer covering to the absorbent inner pad.
The separation-for-recycling issue is one that has plagued the disposable diaper industry for years. Disposables comprise 3 percent of landfill volume nationwide, according to the Philadelphia-based National Association of Diaper Services.
The methodology and technol-ogy for recycling Envirodiapers is proven, Rapp said. He has produced diaper hampers and snap-together, industrial floor mats from material containing recycled Envirodiapers.
However, to make recycling cost-effective and efficient, Rapp said he needs more customers and a wider distribution of his product. He sells 30,000-40,000 of the diapers nationwide, primarily to hospitals, day-care centers and diaper services.
But he needs about 250,000 in any one geographic area to put his plan into action. Rapp wants to put the recycling equipment in the trailer of a large truck and go from area to area, picking up the diapers and regrinding them. He then will mix the substance with virgin resins to produce material suitable for injection molding new products by molders in the same area.
Envirodiaper is now featured in Baxter Healthcare's hospital supply catalog.
``As distribution becomes more widespread, people will begin to think differently about disposables [diapers] being the only way to go,'' Rapp said.
The diapers come in four sizes and sell by mail order or retail for an average of $7 each.
Although more expensive than disposables, the Envirodiaper gives consumers a diaper as convenient to change as a cloth diaper with the convenience of a disposable. It also can be reused and then recycled. Rapp said he believes recycling the diapers into other products is viable.
``We've got diaper hampers and [absorbent] floor mats that we've made from the diapers and have proven it can be done,'' he said.
Rapp just sold his first order of the diapers to a leading diaper service in the Netherlands, where landfill space is tight.
Rapp recently did a proposal for a major New York hospital that buys disposable diapers, then pays to have them disposed of in a landfill.
``Including having a diaper service deliver twice per week, the
hospital will realize a 52 percent savings over the cost of using disposables, and this is assuming they will lose 20 percent of the diapers for various reasons,'' he said.