North Carolina company collaborates on compostable diapers

Agromousquetaires said its French subsidiary, Cellulose de Brocéliande, is collaborating with Tethis Inc., of Raleigh, North Carolina to bring the first known compostable diaper to market. The program, branded Couches Fertiles (Fertile Diapers), is an initiative to demonstrate the sustainable, controlled and full-cycle process of the compostable diapers from use to collection to disposal in a variety of institutions in Paris, France, Agrpmousquetaires said.

According to a report from the U.S. EPA, the company noted, an estimated 20 billion disposable diapers accumulate in landfills in the U.S. alone, with Europe representing even larger amounts of similar waste.

Although many components of diapers have been made compostable, the absorbent material that makes the diaper work has been made from environmentally persistent polymers called polyacrylates. To date, there has been no bio-based alternative with the performance and economics necessary to make a compostable diaper work at scale, Agromousquetaires said.

To create a realistic and authentic solution eliminating ecologically destructive diaper waste, the companies recognized that tackling a longstanding and difficult problem would mean developing a multi-pronged strategy starting with product development. The Cellulose de Brocéliande team sought an innovative way to make a functional diaper composed of sustainable materials. Cellulose de Brocélainde identified Tethis as a key contributor for the trial, in which Tethis provided the novel ingredient and the expertise to embed it within their innovative and specially designed diapers maximizing effectiveness of the materials.

In this collaboration, Tethis provided the breakthrough absorption technology for the compostable diapers while Agromousquetaires, through Celluloses de Broceliande has developed an innovative diaper design, manufactured the diapers and Les Alchimistes managed the distribution, collection and evaluation of the program – from the distribution of diapers to the evaluation of their performance through to converting the used products to industrial compost.

“Our technology addresses a well-known ecological nightmare for society, but that to date has had no effective solution,” said Robin Weitkamp, CEO at Tethis. “The partnership with Cellulose de Brocéliande and Couches Fertiles is one of my proudest achievements, as we have demonstrated the successful use of our material within the first mass consumer trial of compostable diapers to market for a more environmentally conscious future with a partner that is driven to make it a commercial reality.”

In conjunction with Paris City Hall and the French Ministry of Ecological Transition, the Couches Fertiles program has demonstrated cradle-to-cradle sustainability of the diapers by partnering with nurseries over two years. Couche Fertiles provided thousands of diapers to nurseries to verify the diapers were effective for use.

The nursery staff confirmed the compostable diapers being tested were just as suitable as other standard diapers. Disposal of the diapers was also successful. Les Alchimistes led the collection and the successful composting of the diapers in a controlled, industrial environment, the company said. Over the past two years more than 15,000 diapers have been successfully composted, demonstrating the viability of converting baby diapers from a landfill or incinerated waste and into a useful, safe and eco-friendly consumer product, according to Agromousquetaires.

“We are committed to finding a way to balance excellent performance in diapers without leaving a permanent waste” said Eric Vilmen, head of development at Cellulose de Brocéliande . “We view this type of product as inevitable and important for France and for society as a whole.”

As the pilot program accelerates, Cellulose de Brocéliande and Tethis are expanding their collaboration to evaluate the next steps to bring the compostable diapers to the market in Europe at commercial scale, Agromousquetaires said.

Tethis develops and manufactures superabsorbent materials built from plant-based feedstock sources. Its proprietary plastic-free compostable super-absorbents allow product brands and manufacturers to move to more genuinely eco-conscious products while keeping overall performance comfortably and cost-effectively, Agromousquetaires said.

Agromousquetaires,the agri-food cluster of Groupement Les Mousquetaires,is made of six manufacturing sectors, 59 production units throughout France, 11,000 employees and around 18,000 breeder partners and 1,200 farmer partners.

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